GLWN Taps European Know-How for U.S. Offshore Wind Projects

Trade mission to Germany and Denmark helps identify key considerations for port-based projects

Barge and Blades

This past April, representatives from GLWN had the opportunity to travel to Germany and Denmark with a contingent from the New Bedford (MA) Economic Development Council as part of an international trade mission to observe and evaluate the operations of several major offshore wind installations and the manufacturers that supply turbine components.

The purpose of their trip was to engage with key principals responsible for the planning, construction, management and success of the facilities, to tap into their wealth of knowledge and experience for the purpose of fortifying the manufacturing supply chain and providing expert counsel for offshore wind projects planned throughout the United States.

Dee Holody, GLWN Director of Operations, and Patrick Fullenkamp, GLWN Director of Technical Services, spent a week touring the European facilities, interviewing the sources responsible for their operation, talking with political leaders and developers backing the operations, and generally gaining intense knowledge of the intricacies involved with building offshore wind facilities back home. Here are their observations and key takeaways from that trade mission.

"The U.S. needs a stable and consistent political framework that supports offshore wind."

Jens Eckoff, President, German Offshore Federation
  • Holody and Fullenkamp were invited by the New Bedford EDC as the organization prepares to break ground on its "Marine Commerce Terminal," a $100 million port project that promises to support a budding offshore wind industry. The Port of New Bedford claims the project will be worth tens of billions of dollars for equipment manufacturers like General Electric, Siemens and American Superconductor, when mature.
  • This race-to-market is being fueled by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Offshore Wind Strategy, which contains an overall objective of lowering the cost to produce wind energy to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020, and a long-term goal of 7 cents by 2030. The DOE is investing in projects to remove market barriers that limit the deployment of offshore wind in the nation's coastal and Great Lakes regions.
  • Massachusetts is attempting to position itself as a major player in this development through its research being conducted at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown, MA which is conducting tests on blade technologies needed to withstand the pounding from coastal winds. The Commonwealth is also investing heavily in the port facilities, infrastructure and supporting industries necessary to establish a viable offshore wind industry.
  • The trade mission team toured facilities in Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven and Hamburg, Germany and Brande, Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark. At each stop the group met with their counterparts and other key officials, conducting team meetings and panel discussions, while examining various strategic plans developed by each facility and participating in technical discussions that focused on infrastructure, manufacture case studies, land use, utilization of the local supply chain, and import and export considerations.
  • One highlight of the trip was a visit to the Anholt Offshore Wind Farm (AOWF), the largest offshore wind project in Denmark located in the Kattegat waters between Djursland and Anholt island. When fully commissioned at the end of 2013, the $1.65 billion project, contracted through Siemens Wind Power, will, in part, permit the replacement of most of the current diesel-powered electricity on the island. In May 2013, AOWF became Denmark's largest wind farm when 59 turbines were grid connected, totaling 212MW. In one instance a construction vessel managed to erect a complete tower and install a wind turbine in just seven hours.

"Wind energy is a project, not a business. [It] requires continuous sales, and execution. You have to constantly be looking for the next project."

Annette Schimmel, Head of Strategic Projects, BLG Logistics
Supply Chain lessons learned from the trade mission:
  1. High performance and efficiency matters. The Siemens manufacturing operation has gone through multiple phases of Lean Manufacturing thereby reducing their cost, improving the quality of the product, and reducing delivery time to their customers. Siemens will expect nothing less from their suppliers – high quality, a continuous improvement process, competitive pricing and consistent on-time delivery.
  2. Opportunities for Growth. This trip enabled the team to witness the sheer magnitude of the offshore tower and foundation manufacturers. These large component parts require water and/or rail access, and close proximity to portside, thus creating growth opportunities for the host port.
  3. Just–in-time deployment. On the visit to the Anholt staging yard, the group witnessed a functioning port, dedicated to the offshore staging and final assembly of components prior to deployment to the wind farm. The towers, blades and nacelle were being staged at the port and deployed onto the installation vessels as needed (just-in-time). The Siemens example of the laydown yard and how they staged the loading areas are key to how prospective ports should be developed to support an efficient and just-in-time parts deployment.
  4. Multi-purpose by design. The group toured two mature and highly integrated multi-purpose ports in Cuxhaven and Bremerhaven. Both terminals were able to accommodate a full staging area, plus a tower, blade and foundation manufacturer with the infrastructure necessary to deploy their finished product. In particular, available port access via heavy duty roads (and rail lines) to the quayside were used for direct load onto installation vessels. The heavy duty access roads allowed for use of “SPMT” (self-propelled motorized transport) vehicles so components could be readily moved in the proper sequence to the vessel loading cranes.
  5. Access to local/regional content. Turbine OEMs which were visited by the team indicated that a majority of their material and sub-components comes locally from within Germany or Denmark and arrive via truck, rail or barge. It is important to recognize that, just as in Germany and Denmark, there will be domestic opportunities to provide the smaller components to the port terminal for manufacturing or final assembly, thus the infrastructure to move and deliver the sub-components to the port will be important.
  6. Major challenges. Offshore wind sector barriers include the coordination of interdisciplinary teams (such as manufacturing, energy supplier, maritime industry, etc.); sufficient storage space for large part components; sufficient port equipment; qualified workers; innovative logistics solutions; and experienced and financially strong logistics partners.

"WeserWind "would not use Chinese steel for any primary or secondary finished systems. Very questionable quality." They've learned their lesson.

Rene Surma, Head of Sales, WeserWind Gmbh

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