Most offshore windparks in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea shore are located in open sea more than 100 nautic miles from land. During the construction phase several hundred laborers are working at sea on several vessels and platforms: installation vessels, tugs, supply vessels, cable ships etc. All vessels have to communicate and exchange information with their land-based offices to co-ordinate the ongoing work and secure that all activities are executed according to plan.
The Com4Offshore approach provides the technically and economically optimal solution to the users irrespective of their location by combining wireless, mobile and satellite network technologies. This enables access for standard devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebooks with seamless coverage of the relevant offshore construction areas and with communications services adapted to the user needs.
In addition to communications, software based services support the offshore construction workflow as well as a wireless sensor solution to optimize the installation of major offshore components such as foundations and tower segments. Our goal is to improve the information exchange between the actors offshore and onshore and to increase the efficiency of wind farm construction. This has a significant potential to reduce the time and costs of the costly offshore construction projects.
Users and their needs
During the construction phase of offshore wind farms most users with the need for communication and information services are located on-board of construction vessels, but as well onshore for the coordination and management. In a typical wind farm project with up to 80 wind energy converters, several hundred employees are working on different vessels, installation barges or fixed offshore platforms. Over 20 vessels of various types can be located simultaneously within the wind farm area.
Of the above described stakeholders the following are the Com4Offshore target customer:
- Onshore partners include the management of the offshore wind farm owners, logistics and construction companies, as well as insurance and financing parties. All construction and commissioning management work, logistic operations, contract assignments and coordination amongst different companies are done onshore.
- Offshore partners include construction and logistic companies (ships, material, personnel), as well as observers belonging to other groups (owners, financers, insurers, etc.).
Service/ system concept
The Com4Offshore Service will provide a satellite based public service supporting the communication and information needs of the different user groups in offshore wind farm projects. According to user consultations there is also the need for value added services supporting offshore construction processes. High cost-benefit potential has been particularly identified for mobile reporting services for offshore staff, the optimization of logistics processes by integrating status reports in real-time throughout the whole supply chain as well as positioning and monitoring solutions for offshore components. Com4Offshore therefore offers a portfolio of services which can be bundled according to the specific user needs.
The services enables communication and information exchange between offshore and onshore supporting logistics processes and the construction workflow. The approach is to deploy satellite base stations in the offshore construction area offering public services. This enables individual users and companies to have direct service contracts with the Com4Offshore service provider. Currently, basic Internet and telephony services are only available through the owners of the construction vessels which are restricting the access to certain user groups and are limiting the usage volume.
The Com4Offshore solution combines the access to communications services, software applications and sensor devices as illustrated in the figure above. The ultimate goal is to offer an integrated service concept to offshore users for all their communications and process management needs (one-stop-shop approach).
Space Added Value
The currently used services are fragmented and not reliably available. The actual workflow is based on compromises and lacks a dedicated solution. Therefore, there is a strong demand to build a unified approach that can help companies to work as much as possible on the same basis as in onshore construction sites. In this respect, the integration of Satellite communications is expected to significantly improve the construction process of offshore wind farms, as explained below.
Before starting the construction of a wind farm there is no communication infrastructure available on the off-shore site. Satellite communications are an easy, robust and secure way of establishing high-data rate multipurpose communications between on-shore and offshore players and when needed. In addition, Satcom is considered as a cost effective backup service for fibre optic connections between the transformer platform and the fixed terrestrial network at shore during the operation phase of the wind park.
The project started in July 2015.
User requirements were collected from many potential customers, including Vattenfall, leading to the finalization of the system and service architecture.
System and services implementation and testing activities were concluded in July 2015.
The demonstration activities were initiated in August 2016 with a demonstration of the business support and communication services during the construction phase of Sand-bank wind farm.
The demonstration was completed successfully in January 2017. The users confirmed that the KPIs were met and expressed the positive impact on internal processes, result-ing in time-savings, higher level of information availability and transparency
The consortium is undertaking steps to enter the commercialization phase of the Com4Offshore products.