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Global offshore windfarm capacity will grow 330 percent over the next decade, resulting in a tripling in helicopter expenditures to service them, according to a new report from Waypoint Leasing.
In Wind Power: The Next Helicopter Frontier — the latest in a series of reports from the leasing company on trends in the helicopter industry — Waypoint says that while there are only 30 aircraft currently dedicated to providing wind power support, there will be “at least 100” aircraft servicing these installation by 2021.
It says Germany will be play a leading role in the projected increase in helicopter usage, due to the high average distance from shore of its projects.
Many early wind farms were built near to shore, making them easily accessible by boats. But as the construction of farms has moved further offshore, helicopters have become a more economical mode of transport to and from the installations.
“As wind farms become larger and the distance from shore increases, this drives the economics for transport to and from the site in favor of helicopters,” the report states. “As a reliable and fast response asset, helicopters offer benefits to wind farm operators that include efficient utilization of working hours of technicians, greater site accessibility in most types of weather and less downtime for turbines.”
In terms of their greater ability to access turbines in inclement weather, Waypoint uses the example of an offshore wind farm in the North Sea. According to the company’s estimates, helicopters have an 87 percent probability of being able to access such a facility, compared to only a 51 percent probability of being able to access the same site by boat.
Typically, light twin or medium helicopters are used for large offshore wind farm operations. Light twins, with the capacity to carry five to seven passengers, are used for hoist operations, lowering crew onto a wind turbine for fast troubleshooting and scheduled servicing.
Medium helicopters are generally used to transfer 10 to 12 crew to service vessels and to offshore platforms or substations.
Waypoint says that Airbus’s products are currently the most common in the offshore wind market, with the EC135/H135 having the largest single market share. It said Airbus and Leonardo are also marketing the EC145/H145, AW169 and AW139, respectively, to the wind power industry.