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UK and Norway Advance Offshore Vessel Charging with Wind Power

wind power to charge electric service vessels
Efforts are underway to develop offshore charging for electric-powered vessels (Oasis Marine)

Published Feb 24, 2023 2:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Two separate projects are getting underway in the UK and Norway both looking to convert the support vessels used for offshore wind farms to fully electric operations. The concept looks to tap the electricity generated by the wind farms and store it in battery systems that would be used to charge CSOVs (Construction Service Operation Vessel), CTVs (Crew Transfer Vessel), and other support vessels for wind farms.

The organizers of the project in the UK, point out that the major barrier to converting these vessels to sustainable operations is the range and duration at which electric and hybrid vessels can operate. Oasis Marine, which will lead the UK project, highlights that currently the vessels are charged at their service bases in port, but the wind farms are too far from shore to allow the trips to be fully completed on battery power. The challenge will only increase as wind farms move further offshore and grow larger in scale requiring more time on site for the support vessels.

By enabling offshore charging from a zero-emission energy source, the CTVs and other vessels will be able to operate on battery power eliminating their emissions. Oasis Marine says the initial goal is to operate on electric power for the majority of the time, extending the operational range of the CTVs. They believe the breakthrough technology will enable full electric operations in the future.

The UK recently awarded this project approximately $1.8 million as part of the government-sponsored Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC). The grant supports the two-year project to develop the infrastructure for charging hybrid and electric CTVs. The project involves a series of partners including Oasis Marine which had already conducted tests on its sea charging buoy. Turbo Power Systems will design, build, and test a high-power DC power supply for the conversion of power from the wind turbine to the charging unit while Verlume will supply a modular battery energy storage system with integrated intelligent energy management. The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, the UK’s technology innovation and research center for offshore renewable energy will be responsible for CTV requirements. Vattenfall, operators of Aberdeen Bay Windfarm, will be participating in the project.

“The ability to re-charge vessels offshore is crucial for decarbonizing maritime. Initial sea trials of the Oasis Power Buoy were conducted in early 2022 and this CMDC funding allows for progression to full infrastructure testing,” said George Smith, Managing Director of Oasis Marine.

The first phase of the project will develop the power transfer to batteries systems that will power the charging buoy. In the second phase they will be working with Vattenfall regarding the technical and regulatory requirements, they aim to demonstrate the system on a turbine at their European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen Bay. During the demonstration, a hybrid CTV will operate from Aberdeen Harbour to the wind farm, to then connect and recharge from the Oasis Power Buoy while waiting in the field as maintenance technicians work on the turbines.

Several companies have been working on similar projects also looking to provide charging capabilities at offshore facilities. In 2022, Maersk Supply Services launched a company, Stillstrom, and working with Orsted and the Port of Aberdeen has been working on feasibility studies for charging buoys.

The Norwegian government through its Green Platform Initiative awarded approximately $3.7 million to the Ocean Charger project being led by Vard at the end of 2022. The program held its kickoff meeting on February 15 in Ålesund, Norway as it also works to research, test, validate, and commercialize an energy transfer system for battery-powered ships offshore. Their project is scheduled to run for three years. Vard is currently building a CSOV for REM Offshore, the REM Power, a 278-foot CSOV, which is planned to be part of the test project. The vessel was recently chartered to ASSO Subsea for two years to support RWE in the construction and commissioning of the Sofia offshore wind farm in the UK.