Germany sets course for 2 GW of new offshore capacity in 2015

1 June 2015

Not surprisingly German offshore wind has had no shortage of teething problems, but 2015 seems to be proving productive for projects in the German North Sea, with seven large (300-400 MW range) wind farms in various stages of start up/commissioning. These, when fully commercial, will add some 2071 MW to Germany’s North Sea offshore wind installed capacity, taking the total from about 856 MW (including Blackstone-financed Meerwind Sud/Ost (288), the troubled Bard Offshore One (400 MW), Riffgat (108 MW) and Alpha Ventus (60 MW test facility)) to nearly 3 GW (the current stated goal for offshore wind installed capacity being 6.5 GW by 2020 and 15 GW by 2030).

The new tranche of offshore wind farms consists of: Nordsee Ost; Amrum Bank West, Borkum Riffgrund; Dan Tysk; Butendiek; Global Tech 1; and Trianel Borkum Phase 1.

Nordsee Ost and Dan Tysk inaugurated

27 May saw the inauguration of RWE's 295 MW Nordsee Ost offshore wind farm, with the German Minister of Economics, Sigmar Gabriel, as well as Peter Terium, CEO of RWE AG, Hans Bünting, CEO of RWE Innogy, and Mel Kroon, CEO of Tennet, in attendance.

Nordsee Ost is located about 35 km north of Heligoland and covers about 24 km2, with water depths of up to 25 metres. It employs 48 REpower (now Senvion) 6.2M126 wind turbines, rated at 6.15 MW, and is seen by RWE as its Lighthouse project in the German offshore wind business.

Sigmar Gabriel said at the inauguration: "Offshore wind energy is a strategically important element of Germany's energy and climate policy and is key to the success of the energy transition. Thanks to its continuous input into the grid and its high electricity yields, offshore power generation makes a crucial contribution towards a diversified and reliable energy supply system."

Peter Terium said the expansion of renewable energy was one of RWE's main growth areas and "offshore wind energy will play a vital role", with RWE expected to be "the third largest player in the European offshore market this year." Inauguration of RWE's 576 MW Gwynt y Môr wind farm, located off the coast of Wales (built by RWE in co-operation with its partners, Siemens and Stadtwerke München (Munich municipal utilities) and costing over £2 billion) took place in June, becoming the second largest operating offshore wind farm in the world, after the 630 MW London Array.

According to Hans Bünting, CEO of RWE Innogy, by the end of 2015, some 40% of RWE's renewable power generation will come from offshore wind and "thanks to the Nordsee Ost and Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farms our operating result will see double-digit growth."

RWE says it has invested more than one billion euros in the construction of Nordsee Ost, with the EU contributing an additional 50 million euros.

Construction was carried out from the base port in Bremerhaven, 100 km from the site. The foundations, tower segments, 350 t nacelles and rotor blades were stored, pre-assembled and loaded onto the installation vessels Victoria Mathias and Friedrich Ernestine at the Eurogate Container Terminal.

For the next 20 years, the Nordsee Ost wind farm will be operated and serviced by RWE's own operating station, located on the island of Heligoland, which includes the control room.

RWE Innogy (15% share) and its partner Northland Power (85% share) are developing the Nordsee One and subsequently the Nordsee Two and Three wind farms in the German North Sea, with an eventual total installed capacity of around 1000 MW, described as "the largest offshore project planned off the German coast." The wind farms are to be built 40 km north of the North Sea island of Juist, covering an area of about 150 km2, in a region of relatively shallow waters but high wind speeds.

In April Northland Power Inc of Toronto and RWE Innogy announced that financial close had been reached on the €1.2 billion 332 MW Nordsee One project, with all of the equity contributed to the project and all debt required for the project fully committed by the project lenders. The wind farm farm is expected to enter operation in 2017, with in-water construction planned to start in 2016.

Senvion (formerly owned by Suzlon, but recently acquired by Centerbridge) will supply, install, and maintain the 54 wind turbine generators for the project, which are of the 6.2M126 type, each rated at 6.15 MW, as deployed at Nordsee Ost.

The financing was oversubscribed. Approximately 70% of the Nordsee One project's required costs will be provided from an €840 million non-recourse secured construction and term loan and related loan facilities from ten international commercial lenders: ABN AMRO; Bank of Montreal; Commerzbank; Export Development Canada; Helaba; KfW IPEX; National Bank of Canada; Natixis; Rabobank; and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. The project was advised by Green Giraffe (financial), Linklaters (legal), Chatham (hedging). The banks were advised by Clifford Chance (legal), Sgurr (technical), Benatar (insurance), Corality (model audit) and EY (tax).

Like other offshore wind farms, Nordsee One is entitled to a feed- in tariff subsidy under the German Renewable Energy Act and a substantial portion of the project returns are earned during the feed- in-tariff period, say the project developers, while "the remainder of the planned returns are expected from the robust and mature German wholesale electricity market."

Northland and RWE jointly own the early-stage development projects Nordsee Two and Nordsee Three, each with the same ownership shares as Nordsee One (85% and 15% respectively). These projects, totalling approximately 670 MW, are "anticipated to be developed over the next decade as offshore wind tariffs are extended and the grid infrastructure is made available", say Northland/RWE.

In April Sigmar Gabriel was also present at the formal opening of the 288 MW Dan Tysk offshore wind farm, which employs 80 Siemens 3.6 MW (SWT-3.6-120) wind turbines.

The DanTysk facility - a joint venture of Vattenfall (51%) and Stadtwerke München (49%) - is located about 70 km west of the German island of Sylt, and 90 km from the mainland, in waters between 21 and 32 m deep. It occupies an area of some 70 km2. Offshore construction of the foundations started in February 2013, and erection of the first wind turbines started in mid-April 2014, with installation of all 80 wind turbines done within a time frame of about four months.

Dan Tysk is the first infrastructure project jointly implemented by Vattenfall and SWM. The two companies are also partnering on the 288 MW Sandbank offshore wind farm, which is close to DanTysk.

First power at Amrumbank West, Butendiek, Borkum Riffgrund

April in addition saw first power from E.ON's 288 MW Amrumbank West offshore wind farm in the German North Sea, once again employing Siemens 3.6 MW machines. This facility is expected to be completed this autumn.

Also employing these same wind turbines is the 288 MW Butendiek wind farm, which generated its first power in February and is expected to be fully commissioned this summer.

In 2010 German renewables developer wpd bought the Butendiek project from SSE Renewables Germany Holding GmbH. After redesigning the project and restructuring the main work packages, wpd launched it for financing in 2011/2012. For this purpose all rights and assets regarding the project were concentrated in OWP Butendiek GmbH & Co KG as project company.

In 2013 the final project financing, with a total project volume of 1.3 billion euros, was signed by a group of five investors, which became shareholders in OWP Butendiek GmbH & Co KG: Siemens Financial Services; Marguerite Fund; Industriens Pension; PKA A/S; and wpd. Subsequently, CDC Infrastructure as well as ewz joined as further investors. In addition to its role as shareholder, wpd remains responsible for project management as general partner. Project debt financing was arranged by KfW IPEX, UniCredit and Bremer Landesbank, in a consortium with European Investment Bank, KfW Förderbank, Denmark's Eksport KreditFonden and further commercial banks including BayernLB, HeLaBa, HSH Nordbank, ING, Rabobank and SEB.

First power was also generated in February at Dong Energy's 312 MW Borkum Riffgrund North Sea offshore wind farm, which is located 54 km from the German coast and 37 km north of Borkum island.

Yet again this uses Siemens wind turbines, but of the SWT-4.0- 130 type, employing 78 of these 4 MW machines. It is also the first application of the suction bucket jacket foundation concept at a commercial offshore wind farm.

Dong Energy has a 50% stake in Borkum Riffgrund 1, with the other 50% being owned by KIRKBI (majority shareholder in Lego Group) and William Demant Invest.

Construction is now underway on Dong's second offshore wind project in the German North Sea, the 582 MW Gode Wind 1 and 2 farm, which will employ 97 Siemens 6 MW wind turbines with 154 m rotors.

Commissioning at Global Tech 1 and Trianel Borkum

Meanwhile, commissioning is in progress at the 400 MW Global Tech 1 wind farm, which employs 80 Areva (Multibrid) M5000-116 wind turbines - each with a capacity of 5 MW.

Global Tech I, which occupies an area of about 41 km2 is located approximately 180 km north west of Bremerhaven.

Germany's Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) granted its approval for the 80 wind turbines and the associated transformer station as long ago as 2006. Construction began in August 2012.

Global Tech I Offshore Wind GmbH is the project company that has constructed and is now operating the wind farm. The company's shareholders are Stadtwerke München GmbH, HSE AG (Darmstadt), Axpo International and Esportes Offshore Beteiligungs GmbH. Further shareholders are the two project development companies Norderland Projekt GmbH and Windreich as well as FC Wind 1 GmbH and FC Wind 2 (both of which filed for bankruptcy in November 2014).

At a distance of 100 km from the nearest coastline and with vessel routes between 140 and 180 km to harbour, Global Tech I is one of the most remote offshore wind farms to date.

The local conditions of high waves and wind speeds present daily challenges to the commissioning teams. In periods of heavy weather, jack-up cranes or dynamic positioning vessels are deployed. These are able to cope with high waves by standing on the seabed or by dynamic positioning alongside a turbine. This enables the commissioning teams to gain safe access to the turbines via a gangway. Despite this, over the winter months relatively little access was possible and so an additional jack- up vessel, Seajacks Hydra, has been deployed to accelerate the commissioning. As a consequence, the size of the commissioning team has also been expanded. The new vessel supplements the jack-up vessel Brave Tern and the dynamic positioning vessel Reef Despina (DP2 rating).

Under conditions of moderate wave heights, smaller crew transfer vessels (CTVs) can transport further teams from the larger vessels to other turbines, where they access the turbines via fixed ladders.

Having a range of vessel types available enables flexible transfer of people in any weather, say the project developers. Maintenance teams located at the wind farm's transformer substation are brought to the turbines aboard CTVs or flown by helicopter.

The logistics plan and the utilisation of various vessel types is continually monitored and adapted as necessary as the project progresses by turbine supplier Adwen, which is responsible for commissioning as well as chartering the vessels. Adwen is a joint venture of Areva and Gamesa.

It is anticipated that all 80 wind turbines will be connected and feeding electricity to the grid in the summer of 2015.

Also employing Areva M5000 wind turbines is the 200 MW Trianel Borkum Phase 1, which started supplying power to the German grid in February 2015. This has been described as "Europe's first 100% municipal offshore wind farm" as the project is led by Trianel GmbH, representing some 33 municipal utilities and regional energy suppliers from Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. The project is co-financed by the EU under the European Energy Programme for Recovery.

The offshore wind farm, which consists of 40 wind turbines, is located approximately 45 km off the coast of the island of Borkum in the North Sea. Construction of the wind farm was completed in mid 2014 but, says Trianel, "owing to repeated delays in connecting to the power grid by the transmission system operator," connection to the grid was pushed back to the start of 2015.

The hope is that commercial operation can be started during summer 2015.

The Norwegian multi-purpose vessel Aker Wayfarer was chartered to connect the various turbines. This 157 m long ship is equipped with two heavy-duty cranes and can accommodate ten engineers on board in addition to the crew.

Trianel Borkum is expected to achieve a remarkable 4000 full load hours per year, its developers say.

Making connections

As noted by Trianel, grid connection problems have been among several factors hampering German offshore wind farm development, but significant recent progress has also been reported in this area.

So far in 2015 three AC-to-HVDC converter platforms (employing Siemens HVDC Plus technology) have been successfully handed over to TenneT (the TSO responsible for German North Sea wind farm connections to the grid) by the Siemens/Prysmian consortium. These are HelWin 1 (576 MW), BorWin 2 (800 MW) and SylWin 1 (864 MW), with handover of HelWin 2 (690 MW, Siemens/Prysmian) imminent as of June 2015.

DolWin 1 (800 MW, employing ABB HVDC Light technology) is also hoping to achieve handover in the summer of 2015 after a number of delays.

The HVDC platforms serve a group of wind farms, with Nordsee Ost and Amrum Bank West connecting to HelWin, Butendiek and Dan Tysk to SylWin, Borkum Riffgrund and Trianel Borkum to DolWin, and Global Tech 1 to BorWin.

By 2019, TenneT hopes to have about 7100 GW of grid connection capacity in commercial operation for offshore wind farms in the German North Sea.

It has recently issued Green Bonds to the value of 1 billion euro to provide further funding for DolWin, giving commissioning dates of 2015 for both DolWin 1 and the 916 MW DolWin 2 (also using HVDC Plus technology), and a date of 2017 for DolWin 3, which is rated at 900 MW and will employ Alstom Grid's HVDC MaxSine technology.

All this activity in the North Sea will put Germany into the lead for offshore wind installation in 2015, ahead of the UK and China, which is expected to install about 1 GW of new offshore wind capacity per year over the next few years, according to market research company Global Data (an affiliate of MPS).


First published in June 2015

Offshore wind Achieving safe access to turbines during commissioning of Global Tech 1 (photo, Adwen)
Offshore wind One of the Dan Tysk wind turbines (photo, Vattenfall)
Offshore wind Nordsee Ost under construction
Offshore wind The recently completed SylWin 1 HVDC converter platform (photo, Siemens)

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