HI Uplift: Heli demand for offshore wind sector takes off – on both sides of Atlantic


Helicopter demand to service the offshore wind power sector is taking off – on both sides of the Atlantic. After the US received delivery of its first two dedicated wind sector helicopters last month, offshore specialist CHC Helicopter has revealed its contract win for the construction of the world’s largest offshore wind farm in the North Sea.

Under construction off the UK’s northeast coast, the Dogger Bank Wind Farm is scheduled to be the biggest offshore wind development when complete. It will consist of 277 wind turbines, capable of generating 3.6GW of renewable energy; enough to power 6m homes each year. CHC has landed the contract to support the construction of the project, which is a joint venture partnership between energy companies SSE Renewables, Equinor and Vårgrønn.

CHC is providing AW139 and H175 aircraft to support the contract from its Norwich base in eastern England, with the first crew change missions taking place at the end of April. The wind farm is being constructed in three stages, starting with Dogger Bank A, with further work planned for Dogger Bank B and C.

H175 and AW139 helicopters were selected for crew change missions due to their superior deck loading and payload capabilities and carbon efficiency gains, according to the operator.

Dave Grant, sales director, EMEA, CHC Helicopter explained the significance of the contract award to Helicopter Investor: “This latest contract win solidifies CHC as the premier provider of offshore transportation services for the renewables sector in the North Sea Basin. This is now our 20th offshore wind contract, having previously supported the largest wind farms in the world to date.”

The offshore wind sector represents “a game-changing” opportunity for the UK. “By combining the power of nature’s elements with our traditional supply of oil and gas, we propel ourselves towards energy security, independence, and a resilient energy landscape,” he told us.

Helicopter transport offers significant benefits compared with surface vessels. “The ability to travel long distances, and in severe weather conditions, means we can ensure our passengers get where they need to be quickly, efficiently and safely, with no disruption to customer operations,” said Grant. The ability to bypass difficult sea conditions and shorten travel times means crew will arrive feeling fresh and ready to conduct their crucial work before travelling home safely, he added.

While oil and gas will continue to be a central pillar of the world’s energy mix for decades to come, CHC is joining its customers in supporting the energy transition, according to the operator. “As the UK embraces offshore wind, we are redefining our energy landscape and combating the pressing challenges of climate change,” said Grant. “By reducing carbon emissions and advancing renewable technologies together with our customers, we are building a sustainable legacy for future generations.”

Alan Borland, project manager, Dogger Bank Wind Farm said: “Being so far from shore presents new challenges to how we manage logistics in offshore wind, which can only be overcome through the use of trusted suppliers. We are delighted that CHC will join the project to as our aviation partner to support us in our crew changes during the construction of Dogger Bank Wind Farm.”

But wind farm development is not confined to the North Sea. Last month operating lessor LCI confirmed the delivery of the first two dedicated helicopters to serve the US offshore wind power sector. The leases, which are expected to contribute to the rapid growth of a $12bn/year market, cover two Leonardo AW169 helicopters. Supplied to HeliService USA, they will support offshore wind operations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, off the country’s northern east coast.

Meanwhile, aviation consultancy Air & Sea Analytics hailed a “new dawn” for the US offshore wind sector after work began in June on the foundations of the first two commercial-scale projects, South Fork and Vineyard. The Vineyard Wind facility will see 62 turbines installed, each rated at 13MW, giving the wind farm an 806MW capacity. South Fork will feature 12 turbines with total capacity of 132MW, said Air & Sea Analytics.

If you enjoyed reading this content, please register for your free, regular Helicopter Investor Uplift newsletter – delivering insight on the fast-paced global helicopter market – via this link.

Subscribe to our free newsletter

For more opinions from Helicopter Investor, subscribe to our email newsletter.

Subscribe here