Orkney project shows value of local fleet
Trials in Orkney have shown that using smaller locally-based support vessels can deliver considerable cost savings for the marine renewables industry.
The results of the first leg of a project funded by the Scottish Government have been announced by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.
The Orkney Vessel Trials project, carried out by Orkney consultancy Aquatera in association with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), was launched by Mr Ewing last year.
Installation, operations, and maintenance are a considerable project cost for wave and tidal developers, alongside managing risk in challenging sea conditions.
The objectives of the study were to investigate and test ways to reduce costs of operations required for the marine energy industry.
This involved demonstrating how a project involving many companies, vessels and people can be carried out to high safety standards - and showing how vessels available in Orkney waters can carry out complex marine operations efficiently and cost effectively.
The project took place during the quieter winter months, with 20 local organisations, and over 120 individuals, working together on over 60 vessel operations.
Close collaboration and cooperation between all parties was key to the project’s success, and although the trials were based in Orkney, the outcomes are transferable to other localities with similar marine opportunities and challenges.
The outcomes have now been published to assist project developers in selecting fit-for-purpose and cost-effective vessels for future projects.
One example demonstrated that marine energy developers could save 70-80% on installation costs by utilising a gantry barge and other local vessels, rather than commissioning large dynamically positioned offshore construction vessels.
Mr Ewing said: “The Scottish Government is committed to capitalising on the pioneering research and development work taking place in Orkney.
“In 2013 we provided funding of £1.1 million to EMEC to support a project that would assess the capabilities of the local fleet of vessels within the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters and how these vessels could apply their skills to supporting Scotland’s marine renewables industry.
“Using local vessels to the best of their capabilities not only creates a great local economic impact but provides an important service to the development of the industry, through constant learning and cost reduction.”
Project manager Ian Johnstone from Aquatera said: “We are proud to have successfully developed, supported and delivered this project. The results obtained have clearly shown how locally based solutions can have real benefits for project economics without compromising on quality or safety.
“The trials have also given the opportunity to put into practice some of the ideas and potential solutions that have until now been concepts and ideas.”
Neil Kermode, managing director of EMEC added: “The results from this first project have been very promising, demonstrating just what can be done with our local fleet, and instigating safety enhancements and cost savings for those in the marine renewables industry.
“We’re very grateful for the support provided from the Scottish Government. It is exactly this sort of practical initiative that will enable the industry to develop and bring the rewards of marine energy to Scotland in the coming years.”