The unpredictability of offshore wind farm construction projects is leading to a serious lack of investment in the barges needed to construct them, according to the boss of A2SEA, the company which has to date installed three quarters of Europe's offshore wind turbines.
The lack of such barges is oft-cited as a barrier to the ongoing construction of offshore wind farms, but while demand for them is soaring A2SEA chief executive Jens Frederik Hansen is convinced that the unpredictable nature of the market means it could take years for the shortage to be addressed.
"Projects can be unreliable to timetable because of uncertain weather, water depths and seabed conditions," said Hansen, adding that wavering investor commitment, such as Shell's recent decision to pull out of the London Array project, could also result in delays.
Such delays can have a major impact on the profitability of barge operators as vessels that could have been used on other projects are left sitting idle.
Offshore turbines are installed in two outings - one to put the foundation in and a second for the turbine itself.
The boats needed to install the turbines are expensive to construct and operate because they need to have the capability to put down "legs" to the sea bed to provide stability during installation.
Despite its market dominance in Europe, A2SEA still only operates three barges because of the uncertain market and a construction period for the barges of up to four years.
Earlier this year, the company commissioned a fourth boat to be built.
"We're confident the market will be there for some time going forward, and hopefully we'll be dominant if and when others decide to enter," said Hansen.
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