Here’s a question: for how long is it feasible to maintain a thermal power plant? The obvious answer is ‘for as long as possible’ because it represents a vast capital investment, delivers a dependable profit, and successfully feeds multiple energy-hungry communities. Even so, do these reasons really stack up?

Continuing to run a traditional powerhouse makes sense while such a plant achieves lower energy prices and generates higher capacities than solar, wind or other renewable energy solutions. But parity pricing is becoming reality across the energy spectrum, and new possibilities are emerging for renewables generation on a substantial scale. Since it would take a few million solar panels, or a few hundred wind turbines, which requires a huge amount of land, to achieve the same energy output as, say, a 500 MW gas turbine, a valid option will be even to head out to sea as costs for offshore wind will continue to drop rapidly . A business case is growing to close down the thermal power plant and instead move offshore where artificial islands will support the maintenance and operations of wind turbines with its own sea port, helipad, landing strip, service hubs, workshops, warehouses, personnel accommodation and more.

Increasingly, experts maintain the future of wind will be offshore, where there is more space to distribute all of the turbines required for serious levels of energy production, and where wind strength and reliability year round are generally more consistent than on land. Solar farms also need plenty of room to spread out, and man-made energy islands could provide the solution. At the same time, storage technologies are developing and improving at a rapid pace, enabling effective supply from distant locations.

The impact on logistics will be, I believe, much closer integration between transportation and energy production. Trucks, boats and aircraft will become both transport assets and energy assets. The future energy supply chain will be far more complex and reach further than before into new, remote locations. It will include more transport/energy assets than ever before and logistics teams will have to monitor and control these assets over more widely dispersed areas. Fortunately, the skills developed to manage oil and gas supply chains in remote geographies are likely to be easily transferable to renewables.

There is of course much more to say about the logistics implications of the growth in renewables, and perhaps you would like to see my recent video (password: DHL) on this topic. I can also warmly recommend you register for this year’s DHL Global Energy Conference on November 1, 2018 in Houston, TX, USA. The overarching conference theme will be ‘Logistics in a New Energy Landscape’ and there is sure to be much lively debate and discussion among industry leaders about the critical issues affecting the industry.

By Gert Van Dijck, Global Head Sector Strategy, DHL Energy Sector, CSI

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Published: August 2018

Image: PR TenneT