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The future of renewable energy mega-projects

How Dyneema® is helping deliver a renewable energy future

Worldwide energy consumption is increasing. As populations grow and more of the world industrializes, this trend is unlikely to reverse.

The International Energy Agency reports that worldwide energy demand rose by 2.3% in 2018, with fossil fuels meeting around 70% of this growth. However, there is increasing agreement that we can’t rely on fossil fuels forever. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, ten years of solid renewable energy capacity growth continued through 2018 – with global additions of 171 GW representing an annual increase of 7.9%.

Overall, the world’s renewable energy electricity capacity reached an astonishing 2,351 GW in 2018 – around a third of total installed electricity capacity. This figure is rising year-on-year, and around the world, renewable energy mega-projects are underway to help meet the energy requirements of tomorrow. These new projects require enormous financial investment, and in many cases push the limits of existing material and engineering capabilities. To make sure that the renewable energy mega-projects of the future come to life, radical and cutting-edge solutions are required.

How Dyneema® is supporting some of the world’s biggest renewable projects

For more than 25 years, DSM has provided lightweight solutions for the offshore and marine industries, with high-performance fiber grades such as Dyneema® SK78 and DM20.

Today, these solutions with Dyneema® are increasingly finding their way onto some of the world’s most ambitious renewable energy projects.

This is particularly true for many of the huge windfarms being erected along coastlines around the world, where lifting and lashing solutions made with Dyneema® are enabling faster installation and less chance of worker injury or damage to fragile lifted loads such as nacelles or wind turbine blades.

Synthetic lifting equipment made with Dyneema® is up to eight times lighter than steel for the same strength. The exceptional strength-to-weight ratio of synthetic solutions made with Dyneema® significantly reduces the weight and size of the equipment, as well as reducing the effort required for use by crews.

Switching to lightweight lifting slings saves days on windfarm installation

Ropes and slings made with Dyneema® are already making a difference at the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, the Walney Extension, off the UK coast. Its 87 turbines – built in addition to the 102 turbines at the existing Walney 1 and 2 sites – generate 660 MW, enough energy to power more than 460,000 homes.

To generate this much power from only 87 turbines requires huge structures. The largest 40 turbines at the Walney Extension each rise 220 meters above the seabed, with 80 meter blades, and weigh up to 880 tonnes each. Understandably, transporting and erecting these turbines is immensely challenging, requiring cutting-edge materials.

The Walney extension project

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Initially, polyester slings were considered to lift heavy monopiles into place. However, it was soon decided that these would be too heavy, too slow to rig, and too thick to handle easily. Slings made with Dyneema® SK78 quickly emerged as the obvious option, and soon proved their value by reducing the loading and unloading times of each monopile by 60 minutes – the equivalent to three and half days for the whole project. Given that vessel rental fees can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars a day, this is a significant factor in making renewable energy mega-projects more economically viable.

Benefits of using lashing chains with Dyneema®

For the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm in Scotland, synthetic link chains with Dyneema® were used to move the 336 foundation piles to the site more efficiently. The challenge was the tight timetable.

The piles were transported on barges from three locations, one in Germany and two in the Netherlands. Fixing the piles securely for the journey required lashing chains 16 meters long, with a minimum breaking load (MBL) of 20 tonnes. Made of steel, each chain would weigh 64 kilogrames. Synthetic chains with Dyneema® weigh just 10.2 kilogrames at the required MBL of 20 tonnes. Their use enabled the crew to simply throw the synthetic lashing chains over the piles, from one side of the barge to the other, instead of using a crane – saving time and money and improving safety.

Dyneema® fiber will also be crucial in delivering the cutting-edge floating foundation technology necessary to keep moving wind farms further from shore and into deeper waters.

The Windfloat Atlantic project, which incorporates the largest and most powerful wind turbines ever installed onto a floating foundation at sea, was initially launched five years ago using a steel chain-based mooring system. However, after encountering limitations during installation and dismantling, the latest phase of the project will use mooring lines with Dyneema® DM20. Their use is delivering major efficiencies, making it easier and more economically viable to install and operate windfarms in inaccessible sites.

Fulfilling our sustainability goals

At DSM we are proud to play such an important role in renewable energy generation. We are committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, and as part of this continue to advocate responsible action on climate change with our stakeholders, while increasing the use of renewables in our energy mix to reduce our carbon footprint. In addition, approximately 75% of Dyneema® fiber production is based on renewable electricity, saving CO₂ emissions equivalent to taking nearly 13,000 vehicles off the road for one year.

With renewable power sources like wind farms increasingly recognized as an answer to the world’s rising energy demands, ropes, slings and synthetic chains made with Dyneema® will play a significant role in making renewable energy viable, at an affordable cost.

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