Photo: Bedrock

Could a 30-kilogram portable AUV replace geophysical survey vessels in offshore wind?

The impending shortage of specialised vessels in offshore wind is not limited to the installation phase and could hit areas of project development such as seabed mapping and UXO surveys, according to a US company that recently introduced a solution to this issue in the form of a portable autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

At the beginning of this year, a report from Rystad Energy found that new and bigger wind turbines, in combination with offshore wind targets set over the past few years, are likely to soon lead to bottlenecks unless enough new and capable vessels are built and existing ones upgraded.

Now, with more countries setting offshore wind capacity goals for 2030 and 2050, some raising their existing targets and/or planning to shorten permitting processes – even more projects are expected to be built across the globe, and faster than anticipated.

With this ramp-up in bringing projects to realisation, the market will have even harder time keeping up not only with having enough vessels for the installation of turbines and foundations, but for performing survey operations as well.

This is according to Anthony DiMare, co-founder and CEO of Bedrock, a New York-based company now bringing a portable autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to the market with an aim of providing services that are currently being provided using survey vessels equipped with sonars.

In an industry in which AUV technology was already introduced, what differs Bedrock’s solution?

The company’s AUV is portable as it weighs only 30 kilograms, it operates close to the seabed so it is safer for marine mammals and is not affected by harsh weather conditions, and comes with a cloud-based data portal which can cut the time in data delivery by ten times compared to current solutions, according to DiMare.

“Our team can basically bring the AUV on a plane with them”, Anthony DiMare told offshoreWINDbiz.

Photo source: Bedrock

In terms of marine mammal protection and weather windows, the AUV operates well below the water surface so its deployment does not significantly depend on weather conditions and, in fact, it operates so close to the seabed that it can use a frequency that does not affect marine mammals.

Still, the feature that DiMare emphasises the most is the access to cloud-based geophysical data.

Namely, since the delivery of the final data products from a survey can take up to a year or more, the ability to provide geophysical data to developers well ahead of time is an invaluable advantage for Bedrock, the company’s CEO said, as it offers an opportunity for faster planning.

Combining new technology, in its physical form, with new data solutions is something being done in many other sectors and offshore energy should not be an exception, according to Anthony DiMare.

“We come from a generation of SpaceX and Apple, and employing a similar way of thinking to seabed mapping is something that comes naturally”, DiMare said.

The AUV, together with the data portal, is not only meant to be deployed for geophysical site investigations but also for unexploded ordnance (UXO) surveys and inspection of underwater offshore wind structures, two other areas in which vessel shortages could cause headaches in the industry, according to the company.

While Bedrock is currently in the stage of validating its solution as it moves on a path toward commercialisation, the company is already collaborating with developers and surveyors, and is targeting primarily the US offshore wind sector, at least for the time being.

One of the potential advantages of the company’s home country is that the US is set to see an influx of numerous projects since it is a new offshore wind market with a massive 2030 target, and could offer more room for the roll-out of new solutions as it aims to install 30 GW of offshore wind capacity in the next eight years, according to Bedrock’s CEO.

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