Assembling wind turbines at record speeds

Assembling wind turbines at record speedsKristiansand

Using technology from the oil industry, Nekkar is aiming to install onshore wind turbines much faster and with significantly less intervention in nature.

Nekkar ASA has for several years delivered ship lifts and equipment for ports across the world. In Kristiansand, the company has created a dedicated development environment in recent years that first and foremost is working on solutions for new and growth industries.

One of its biggest projects is SkyWalker, a lifting tool for installing wind turbines that could revolutionise the wind power industry as we know it. It has the support of Innovation Norway Agder backing it up.

“Looking at the global picture, we of course want to erect as many wind turbines as possible. SkyWalker is a far more efficient solution than what is in use today,” says Anne-Line Aagedal, business controller and sustainability manager at Nekkar.

Great savings

“The fact that Innovation Norway is supporting this project is the green transition in practice. Almost everyone who works here has a background from the oil service industry in Kristiansand,” says Aagedal.

SkyWalker is a lifting tool that uses the turbine’s tower as a climbing pole to lift blades and other equipment to the top of the turbine itself. As the name suggests, it slowly ‘walks’ skywards. The climbing technology means that developers will soon no longer need cranes that are higher and heavier than the wind turbine itself, which in turn means that the interventions in nature in and around the wind farm will be significantly less invasive.

“Today, you need up to 80 articulated lorries every time you erect a single crane for installing wind turbines. With SkyWalker you do not need more than 7-10 articulated lorries,” says Mette Harv, Executive Vice President at Nekkar.

Since the entire load is secured and lifted within a frame rather than hanging freely from a wire, as is the normal method today, SkyWalker also makes it possible to install wind turbines in far more demanding wind conditions than we can today. Overall, the improvements mean big efficiency gains. Nekkar’s calculations show that SkyWalker will make it possible to install 20 wind turbines 30-40 per cent faster than today.

“What our customers pay for is efficient installation. Its main purpose is to reduce the time it takes to install a wind farm,” says Harv.

Close collaboration with Innovation Norway

With SkyWalker, Nekkar is reusing technology that the company has previously developed for installing drilling rigs. The yellow gripping mechanism has previously been used for handling pipes. The lifting is balanced by a guide mechanism that was developed to stabilise drilling ships in rough seas.

In its development of SkyWalker, Nekkar was initially granted a preliminary project at Innovation Norway. In 2020, it was granted NOK 21 million in support to realise the main project. Since then, Nekkar has worked closely with Innovation Norway and partners in business in order to produce a scaled-down test model.

“Innovation Norway has been a very good sparring partner for us,” says Harv.

Nekkar is now working on a full-scale prototype of SkyWalker. The long-term goal is to develop a version that can also be used to install floating offshore wind.

Jon Arne Rasmussen, senior adviser at Innovation Norway Agder, has followed Nekkar closely in the last few years. He explains that this project is a very good match for Innovation Norway.

SkyWalker entails considerable risk, although if Nekkar is successful and makes it possible to install wind turbines with less emissions and interventions in nature, this project could have major social impacts,” says Rasmussen.

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