Heavy lifting solutions for offshore wind farms

Help reduce SSER’s reliance on jack-up vessels to save costs and provide more agile responses during offshore operations on wind farms.

Background

Scottish & Southern Electricity Renewables (SSER) is a leading developer and operator of renewable energy across the UK and Ireland, with a portfolio of around 4GW of onshore wind, offshore wind and hydro.

The company has the largest offshore wind development pipeline in the UK and Ireland at over 6GW and has an onshore wind pipeline across both markets in excess of 1GW.

SSER makes significant use of jack-up vessels throughout the operational phase of an offshore wind farm’s life, for the maintenance of wind turbines. Jack-up vessels are used to lift components with a mass of up to 80 tonnes. Components or parts with a mass below 600kg can usually be lifted by use of a nacelle crane.

There are no technical issues with the use of jack-up vessels, however efficiency of operations is limited by the restricted availability and lead times, weather constraints and high cost of deployment for jack-up vessels.

The challenge

The challenge is to conduct component heavy lift tasks in a way that reduces the requirement to deploy jack-up vessels or that optimises their use and productivity.

Reducing SSER’s reliance on jack-up vessels will allow for cost savings and more agile responses during operations.

Reduced reliance on jack-up vessels may be achieved through:

  • Use of self-lifting cranes and other temporary measures to enable heavier lifts from the wind turbine transition piece and nacelle without the requirement for a jack-up vessel to remain on station throughout the works
  • Optimising lifting operations conducted from a jack-up vessel through accurate measurement of environmental factors (i.e. wind speed, structural movement, sea current) to provide a more full understanding of environmental windows for safely conducting lifting operations. This could also be achieved through gathering further turbine movement data to improve accuracy of lifts.
  • Solutions which allow for component repair to be performed on-site, which would traditionally require removal of the component
  • Additional lifting equipment which can be safely installed to assist with heavy lift operations
  • Design of modular craneage solutions that can be deployed from the wind turbine
  • Design of more modular major components to enable existing nacelle-based cranes (600kg max) to conduct major component exchanges

Proposals are welcome for:

  • Existing market-ready technologies
  • Development proposals to improve on market-ready capability

Rewards and benefits 

Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to SSER representatives. Trials may be performed at Greater Gabbard after required verification has been undertaken on selected solutions. 

The package may also include:

  • Support from KTN
  • Technical support
  • Invitations to attend or present at KTN events
  • Support if any Innovate or similar competitions are relevant.

Functional requirements

Solutions should be capable of replacing large and heavy components, including the main bearing, gearboxes, generators, blades and other components of this scale.

SSER are primarily interested in solutions for the gearbox and generator, however solutions for any components are welcome.

Major component replacement activities are a known requirement across SSER’s fleet, which SSER work to reduce and mitigate where practicable. Aligning with SSER standard approaches to major offshore campaigns, the following considerations should be made when designing a solution:

  • Reduction of vessel time in the field to reduce environmental impact of operations
  • Improve time taken to return assets to service
  • Reduce personnel at risk of offshore working environment.

A single solution that would be capable of replacing components of different sizes and weights may not be possible and SSER welcomes partial solutions to the challenge.

Solutions should be deployed in dynamic weather conditions offshore, up to a distance of 50km from shore and in water depths up to 60m.

Solutions must be deployed safely and ideally with reduced human intervention. Solutions must also align to offshore/marine operational, health and safety statutory standards.

SSER sites typically see 6-10 major component changes per year. These are currently predominately gearboxes with some generator replacements, however the frequency of generator replacements is predicted to increase in coming years. Blade replacements (or temporary blade lifts to replace parts inside the hub) may also be required in the future.

Technical requirements

The following components, listed with approximate masses and sizes, are of interest to SSER:

  • Gearbox: from 40 tonnes, 5m x 3.3m x 2.2m
  • Generator: from 8 tonnes, 4m x 3.5m x 1.5m
  • Blade: from 19 tonnes, 52m in length
  • Hub: from 45 tonnes, 7.5m x 6m x 5m

Please note that the complexity of the lifted component must be considered in addition to the mass. 

Nacelle cranes have a limit of 600 kg, therefore components of modular solutions should each be less than 600kg if they are to use the nacelle crane.

Detailed component specifications, where available, can be provided to applicants which are invited to pitch.

Closing date

Launch of the Competition: 17/06/22
Deadline for applications: 02/08/22
Selection and notification of finalists: 30/08/22
Date of Pitch day: TBC

Solutions should be fully deployable for prototype testing within 18 months of competition win.

How to get involved

For more details about this challenge and to apply, visit the KTN Innovation Exchange website.