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Massive crane collapse could delay U.K. offshore wind farms

A crane mounted on a ship made to construct wind farms at sea collapsed over weekend, potentially delaying some of the U.K.’s biggest renewable power projects.

Offshore wind farms, often valued in the billions of dollars, require special ships that can lift thousands of tons of equipment. Belgian dredging company DEME had commissioned the Orion 1 vessel with a crane capable of lifting nine fully loaded A380 airplanes at once.

As a result of the incident Engie SA and EDP Renovaveis SA’s 950-megawatt Moray East wind farm off the coast of Scotland is now facing potential delays.

The crane collapsed Saturday while it was being tested at the Liebherr construction yard in Rostock, a port city in Germany, DEME said in a statement. The crane was trying to lift a roughly 2,000 ton barge out of the water in the harbor when the lifting device broke.

A video posted to YouTube shows the crane swing downwards, then crash into its base and send debris flying around the ship. A few people suffered minor injuries, the company said.

DEME had been expecting delivery of the vessel this month from China’s COSCO Offshore Co., but the damage to the crane and the vessel itself mean that delivery will be significantly delayed, a spokeswoman for DEME said by phone. The company is currently working to find a replacement for the ship for its intended projects.

“We are doing everything to not have any delays, but it’s too early to say,” the spokeswoman said.

Representatives at Engie and EDPR didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The ship was due to help install the foundations of the 950-megawatt Moray East offshore wind farm off the northeast coast of Scotland. After Moray East, the ship’s next project was set to be Orsted A/S’s 1.4 gigawatt Hornsea 2 project in the English North Sea.

“We are working closely with our contractors during this challenging time and will support them throughout their investigations,” Orsted said in an emailed statement. “Once these have been completed, we will assess the next steps for our project.”

This year is a relatively slow one for offshore wind farm construction, so it may be relatively easy to find a replacement for the shipment, according to Tom Harries, a wind analyst at BloombergNEF.

(Adds detail on crane load, comment from Orsted)