Damen Shipyards has unveiled its latest concept for the offshore wind industry: A fully electric version of its Service Operations Vessel (SOV) that can charge from turbines and substations offshore.

With continuously growing energy demands, the need for renewable offshore wind energy is also on the rise. Currently, wind farms are maintained by technicians using SOVs. These serve as warehouses, workshops, transportation and accommodation for all the technicians on board. In the areas where green energy is generated, these SOVs emit CO2, even though significant efforts are being made to reduce emissions and enhance vessel efficiency.

Damen is proposing a major advance towards achieving zero-emission wind farms with its concept design for a fully electric SOV. This novel class of offshore wind support vessel, based on Damen’s proven Service Operations Vessel (SOV) design, has been named the SOV E and will be the first large offshore vessel to operate fully electrically.

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Charging by wind turbines and substations

The electric SOV is for operations within wind farms and will be equipped with charging capabilities that will access electricity from suitably equipped turbines and offshore substations. Similar to the way that electric cars charge today. Enabling this comes with its own challenges, which Damen is tackling both within the group and through external partnerships.

A high level of integration between wind farm operators, vessel owners, charging systems designers and Damen forms the foundation. The shared aim is to create a vessel that can not only remain in wind farms for extended periods of time, but also take full advantage of the abundant energy available locally to reduce emissions to virtually zero.

Damen’s research and development division is currently undertaking extensive studies to ensure its technical viability. In addition, the differences in investment between the SOV E and the conventional diesel-electric SOV are being identified, including the additional investment required for charger systems within the wind park.

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Behind the scenes

The premise that underlies the SOV E as an emissions-free vessel is that it will recharge its batteries once a day. This is feasible due to the nature of its operational profile, where it deploys technicians to the wind turbines and then loiters nearby until it is time to retrieve them. It will therefore generally have idling time in each 24-hour period, which can be used for recharging the vessel, using just a small part of the energy generated by the wind farm. This is one example of how the concept has been developed so that sailing 100 per cent electric does not compromise its capabilities.

While the SOV E is capable of sailing entirely electrically, it will be equipped with diesel generators as backup. These will not only enable it to undertake alternative duties at any point in the future, they will also increase the operational flexibility of the vessel.

Electric technologies

The connection between the vessel and the turbine or offshore substation is pivotal. Damen is working with industry specialists to ensure that the charger connection is safe as well as being capable of charging the ship’s batteries very rapidly in all weather conditions.

Research is also being undertaken into ensuring that an emergency release is available in the event of immediate evacuation being required. The location for integrating this connection on the vessel has been carefully chosen to avoid compromising the large open deck area while benefitting from stable dynamic positioning (DP) capabilities.

With battery technology advancing at a rapid pace, the team is looking at what will be available that does not only meet their performance requirements, but also their sustainability goals. One of the aspects being studied is the chemical compounds of the batteries, the raw materials used to produce them, and their recyclability.

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Lower operational costs

The operational costs of the SOV E will be substantially lower than those of a conventional SOV, taking into account the fuel price and the price per tonne of CO2. Various scenarios have been evaluated, all yielding positive business case results. As the cost of CO2 emissions continues to rise, the financial outlook becomes even more promising.

At Offshore Energy 2023 in November, Damen will officially launch the SOV E concept.

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