The demand for offshore wind development in ports around the world is evident and growing. With space (both on-shore and at berth) at a premium, expansion options are limited, costly and come with complex consenting challenges. Ports are struggling with their limited expansion options and developers are looking to hedge their bets on which options can be made commercially viable and will gain consent.
The timescales and finances involved in meeting offshore wind development needs do not meet commercial requirements. This has resulted in a stalemate situation where developers are unwilling to commit while project economics are uncertain.
Lack of time and infrastructure: To have new infrastructure ready in time for many of these projects, the consenting process would need to have already started, if not the construction.
Lack of financing and high cost of infrastructure: Ports often need developer contracts to secure the loans needed to invest in the infrastructure.
Lack of reusability and residual value: The very real risk that the infrastructure will not cover its own cost during the lifecycle of a project and become a potentially redundant (or at least under-utilised) asset.
Lack of scalability / future proofing: The lack of time sensitive scalability, there are no options to grow / adapt / remove the infrastructure (without another long consenting and construction phase).
WHO WE CAN ASSIST
Operators: Offshore wind development companies
Owners: Port authorities, terminal operators and berth operators
Suppliers: EPC Contractors, Supply Chain Providers, Logistic Companies
Beneficiaries: Affected Populations (limited construction impacts), Society (though faster renewables deployment)
HOW WE WILL HELP
ELIRE Infra have created Smart Hubs - these are modular and scalable floating assets that can be used for multiple purposes.
They are hexagonal in form, made up of a central ‘core’ and six outer platforms. The hexagonal form brings increased strength and connections, allowing scalability, many hexagons can be added together, or indeed taken apart.
As they float, they can be moored in deeper water (ideally sheltered) and therefore can become a working platform and marshalling area in deep water, avoiding the need for land claim and channel deepening - constraints that often extend consenting time and have undesirable cost and primary environmental impacts.
They can also be scaled, to increase or reduce the footprint as dictated by the needs of the location, sometimes within the scope of the same project rather than between projects. This means that the port is not left with an unused asset that is no longer generating revenue while continuing to carry maintenance liabilities.
Building new ports and expanding ports with traditional infrastructure is an expensive activity, time consuming and can result in significant environmental impacts. Whilst these can often be offset or mitigated, the costs are high. Once built the asset remains in perpetuity.
Building new ports on virgin sites is not particularly environmentally attractive, so many will plan on expansion, where possible. This usually takes the form of extensive land claim to make flat land, capable of taking significant loading from cranes and cargo and the dredging of channels (and ongoing maintenance dredging to keep that depth). Vessels for offshore wind are getting larger, requiring more water depth and therefore more dredging.
Renewable UK produced a report in 2023 stating that no port in the UK was capable of supporting the future floating offshore wind projects that are currently working through the consenting process: To enable the UK to scale up, the report recommends developing ports as soon as possible by investing £4 billion to ensure they are ready for mass floating wind deployment by the end of this decade.
Scenario: A Renewable Energy Developer Commits to a Port Authority to use their area as a marshalling and construction site - Some manufacturing takes place at the existing facilities (potentially expanded), the storage and assembly takes place on smart hubs.
Configuration: A strategically deployed cluster of x21 floating hubs (in a large rectangular configuration), moored in deeper (likely sheltered) water provides:
A total load capacity of X tonnes and an X sqm surface area to start, this can then be scaled up further if needed.
Components are stored, placed on the platform via vessel cranes or cranes on the hub and assembled around the edges of the hubs.
In the centre there is an office and welfare facility, heated via water source heat pumps and various options can be chosen for other power solutions and sources.
Good water depth surrounds the hub, allowing vessel bathing options, crew transfer and nearby wet storage of components also.
The project increases deployment pace and so more hubs are added.
As the project reduces in scale, sections are removed and relocated to other projects elsewhere.
Outcome: The hubs bridge the infrastructural void left by cappex constrained ports and contract constrained developers, the platform scales with the project and the port is not left with an empty liability as the project(s) reduce in intensity. The customer does not have to allocate cappex, reducing risk.