What design trends are shaping the offshore wind farm sector?

Kuno van den Berg: The main trend is the move towards bigger and bigger turbines. With bigger turbine designs, you get higher efficiency, need fewer turbines, foundations and cables, and have to perform less maintenance. The second trend is the move to locate offshore wind farms farther away from the coast and into deeper waters. This trend poses a number of technical challenges, but if turbines can be placed farther out to sea, where wind is more consistent and stronger, then there’s an advantage to be gained in terms of the extra power generating capacity to be had.

What is unique about Vuyk’s approach?

The role of Vuyk within the Royal IHC group is as an independent designer, working directly for owners and contractors. On average, the Vuyk engineers have a well-above- average experience in the industry, and are familiar with all sorts of ships and equipment; mono-hulls, semi-subs, and jack ups. The company works across multiple different markets, from dredging, mining and civil to offshore oil and gas and renewables, meaning it can quickly combine proven solutions from these markets together into a fresh one and is used to out-of-the-box thinking.

Vuyk offers every customer unique equipment and vessel designs for their projects and operates closely with them to determine the best bespoke method for their infrastructure installations. Active as it is, the team at Vuyk boasts all the required expertise in-house to solve a wide variety of different issues from feasibility to concept, basic and detailed designs and operational engineering.

Why is Vuyk approached to solve the installation problems involved in wind farms?

Vuyk was originally asked for marine operations engineering because of its all-round background knowledge of vessels and equipment, and its experience in marine operations like heavy transports and heavy lifts. An offshore wind farm is built up of several subparts; the substation with export cable, the wind turbine foundations, the wind turbines and the inter-array cables. Once Vuyk had begun work on foundation and turbine installation engineering, particularly in installation of the foundations that carry the turbines, and the turbines themselves, it saw ways to improve the methods and designs for these activities. Today, the company is particularly well known for the quality of its work in these areas.

What special challenges are involved in offshore wind farm installation?

A typical couple of challenges here are the increasing weight and size of all the components involved in setting up a wind farm, plus the farm locations farther offshore, where the environmental conditions are tougher. On a typical wind farm, there are 50−80 turbines to be installed separately. Since there are a lot of them, and since they are the most costly part of any wind farm, manufacturers optimise the turbines constantly to their in-situ function. Any add-ons to improve installation increase the cost per turbine. Therefore, installation becomes more expensive. Another challenge is the logistics. Since multiple turbines are to be installed, the complete logistic chain should work like automotive to increase efficiency and with it decrease costs.

How does Vuyk help clients prepare for the future?

Vuyk has a long history of offering fresh solutions to unexpected problems in the sector. For example, in 2010, it was the first to present an installation solution using a floating vessel for installation of complete turbines.

Revisiting solutions like these, adjusted to the current conditions, may become more attractive to customers as the implications of the new wind farm developments hit home.

With turbines becoming heavier and larger, common jackups may become too expensive compared with making design changes to the turbines themselves. Upcoming floating offshore wind farms will also create new technical challenges for the industry, since standard methods using jack-ups will no longer be a viable solution due to the water depth. So, soon, the entire logistic chain for wind farms will have to be revised and new methods, equipment and vessels will have to be developed. This is where Vuyk comes in with Design to Function.