Technological progress advances our ability to build bigger and badder machines. A recent example is Sea Installer, part of the next generation of powerful wind turbine installation vessels that are capable of moving and installing multiple turbines quickly.
Sea Installer was built by German tech giant Siemens AG together with A2SEA. Sea Installer is a faster and more efficient way to put wind turbines in the water. Like the Chinese Mayflower Resolution, the musclebound Installer saves companies and governments money at a time when the demand for offshore wind energy is on the rise around much of the world, with Northern Europe leading the way. Just days ago England used Sea Installer to install its first two turbines at Gunfleet Sands III wind farm.
The Sea Installer is a sturdy ship meant to operate in the high winds and rough waters far offshore. It’s 132 meters long, 39 meters wide, has a max speed of 12 knots (22 kph) and a payload capacity of up to 5,000 tons that allows it to transport eight to ten turbines in a single trip. It also comes equipped with longer stabilization legs which allow it to work in waters as deep as 45 meters.
As with other renewable energies such as solar, a common obstacle to widespread use is their questionable cost-effectiveness. The Sea Installer, as well as the new turbines the vessel is installing, is a major effort by Siemens to graduate wind turbines from a dubious choice to an obvious one.
“If energy from offshore wind turbines in the future is to be considered a wholly competitive alternative to conventional power plants,” Morten Hultbert Buchgreitz, CEO of DONG Energy which owns Gunfleet Sands III, said in a press release, “the price and cost must be reduced. Therefore it is crucial that we…demonstrate the latest technology, which at a later stage can implement in full scale on our projects.”
The new turbines have six megawatt capacity. They are approximately twice the size as the largest turbines already installed at Gunfleet, thus halving the number of turbines needed for the same energy output. Less turbines means cheaper installation and energy production. The Sea Installer can install the 6 megawatt turbines in less than 24 hours, which, according to Siemens, is record time.
While the vast majority of offshore wind turbines may be found off the shores of northern Europe, most countries such as the United States, which recently installed underwater turbines off the coast of Maine, are late to the game. China is one entity, like Europe, that is increasingly turning to offshore wind turbines to supplement their power grids. Others are sure to follow. And when they do, it’ll be forward-thinking companies like Siemens and A2SEA that will own the sea.