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Performance metrics for vessels: Optimising the selection of vessels for use in offshore wind farms

In 10 years, the Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) has run over 150 projects supporting innovations that have led to both a significant reduction in the cost of energy and risk, whilst making offshore operations safer. To mark this milestone in R&D collaboration, we have selected 10 high impact innovations to showcase the breadth and depth of the programme.

Burbo Bank offshore wind farm

Offshore wind farms require maintenance, and in order to reduce costs operators need to be able to transport their technicians to their wind farms as efficiently as possible.

Improving and understanding vessel performance has been a crucial part of improving access to turbines, and thereby reducing costs. Not having the optimal vessel in rough weather and choppy seas means wasted work hours. Not just because travelling to the wind farms takes longer than it should have in rough weather, but also because it means technicians are in many cases less able to undertake their work once they arrive at the turbine.

The challenge was not just that there was limited information about the performance of these vessels. It was also that the industry lacked metrics by which to measure their performance.

The OWA commissioned a research project to better understand the performance of the vessels which transport people and equipment to the wind farms. We wanted to understand what the current industry practice was for technicians moving on and off the vessels, and define a benchmark against which we could measure improvement. Having a better understanding of vessel performance has benefited the industry as a whole. In other words, it was exactly the kind of collective issue which the OWA was established to take on.

This has the potential to make a big difference. Firstly, technicians have a limited work window. If they have a window of twelve hours, but two or three of those are taken up travelling to the turbine, that is a significant cost to the operator. This means that the most efficient vessel should be chosen to minimise time spent getting to the turbine.

Improving and understanding vessel performance has been a crucial part of improving access to turbines, and thereby reducing costs.

Secondly, when deciding which vessels to purchase, operators are able to compare according to price. But without metrics for vessel performance, their purchasing choices are based purely on cost. Performance metrics enable buyers to understand what better performance looks like, and so justify a higher cost for a vessel which may save many work hours, and hence money, over its lifetime.

There are two important aspects when considering vessel performance for offshore wind, these are performance during transit, and transfer. The transit performance considers the capability of the vessel getting from port site, whereas transfer performance considers the capability to transfer personnel to and from the wind turbine. Both aspects are to be considered in varying sea conditions.

The research included tank testing, sea trials, as well as numerical modelling. We published the research for the industry to evaluate and held a series of workshops to engage and inform the industry. We are also currently developing a mobile app to make the measurement of vessel performance more accessible.


This article is part of 10 years, 10 innovations: A summary of the impact of the Offshore Wind Accelerator

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