A DUTCH INDUSTRY INSIGHT FROM BLIX CONSULTANCY
Round 3 of the Dutch offshore wind industry is finally underway, seen as the Borssele Wind Farm Zone approaches the tendering phase. “Since July 2014 we have been involved with the tender preparation process with RVO, the Dutch Enterprise Agency,” states BLIX Consultancy Director Maarten Timmerman. “Developers will soon be submitting their bids.”
Prospective developers will have an extensive set of data at their fingertips. This information will prove instrumental in calculating a competitive bid. BLIX has managed this preliminary research phase of Borssele. “This puts us in a great position to work with the Dutch government to define the scope of research and manage the investigations carried out.” The company’s role is not limited to research however. “We handle all the phases of a wind farm project, from coordinating feasibility studies all the way to operations and maintenance,” informs Mr Timmerman.
Doing the groundwork
Exploratory surveys not only include the obvious desk investigations on wind and wave conditions, but also actual on-site investigations, for example using a LiDAR buoy (pictured). This multipurpose tool is a floating meteorological station – collecting data regarding the speed and direction of wind at numerous heights as well as wave and current parameters. Further on-site investigations involve various research techniques that focus on what lies on and under the seabed. One of the important questions to answer is which parameters to measure and which not. “The seabed in the Borssele Wind Farm Zone is particularly mobile,” he explains. “This means that measurements taken this year may be irrelevant in 4 years or so. Therefore, looking for unexploded bombs and mines now would not make much sense.”
With the exploratory research now complete at the Borssele site, there is time to reflect on the outcome. “The Netherlands now has a similar system to Denmark,” he says. “This is a more centralised system of research that is much more efficient and cost effective. Data collection is performed just once whereas previously all developers carried out their own research independently.”
The subject of financial efficiency is a key point in today’s offshore wind sector: “The industry has committed themselves to reducing costs,” states Mr Timmerman. The answer lies not necessarily in government subsidies, he continues, but numerous other, more inventive solutions.
The matter of grid connection is significant, he says. “For example, TenneT is using a 66kV connection instead of the less efficient 33kV. This is new technology for offshore wind, something that the industry has not yet taken up because of the unknowns of this technology for its first user. Another clever way is what the Dutch government has recently implemented. That is setting a competitive ceiling price for the Levelized Cost of Energy at €124 per Mwh.”
Market driven solutions
The answer to reducing costs is not only to be found in government offices though: “Now it’s up the market to come up with innovations to reduce costs and increase revenues,” continues Mr Timmerman. “One important driver of cost reduction is the efficient access to turbines in the operations and maintenance phase. The latest generation of vessels specifically designed to allow technicians to access turbines on high seas contributes to bringing costs down. The high accessibility leads to more efficient maintenance. Look at the installation vessels too. Now you’ve got these huge jack-ups with 1,200 tonne cranes that can operate in much tougher conditions. They can carry out their work for a greater part of the year, instead of just the summer months.”
Advances in turbine technology have also paved the way for progress, he goes on to say. “Turbines are much bigger and have larger outputs these days. Less turbines, therefore involving less installation and maintenance, are required to generate the equivalent amount of energy. The Princess Amalia wind farm has 2MW turbines whereas the turbines of today go up to 6, 7 or even 8 MW. This shows that, in comparison with 10 years ago, the offshore wind market is really growing up.”