In Depth: Siemens offshore wind unit going at full tilt

Siemens is entering the busiest period ever for its offshore wind unit, with the installation of a number of major projects.

Michael Hannibal, Siemens Wind Power chief executive of offshore wind for ­Europe, the Middle East and Africa, tells Recharge that it is working ­simultaneously on three projects.

The group is putting in place the last turbines at Greater Gabbard while installing at Sheringham Shoal and working flat out on the giant 630MW London Array.

Hannibal says 79 turbines have been installed in the Thames Estuary at London Array — owned by Dong Energy, E.ON and Masdar — in an operation that has gone more smoothly than could have been expected.

He describes installation as “working like a sewing machine” — adding that, at the current rate, all the turbines could be in place this year.

“It’s been really good. A lot of effort has gone into planning, and we have had good weather,” says Hannibal. “[However] we could still run into some heavy weather or other specific issues, so let’s see.”

Hannibal says Siemens has been steadily working to stretch the weather window by installing in rougher conditions. That is being achieved by concentrating on specific tasks and developing new equipment. Bigger specialist installation vessels and more robust transfer craft are also playing a part.

Meanwhile, Siemens is ­preparing to start work at the 270MW Lincs wind farm — owned by Centrica, Dong and Siemens Project Ventures —where all 75 foundations are in place and the transition pieces are being installed next year.

Work is due to start this year at EDF’s 62MW Teesside wind farm, and turbine installation will start next summer at RWE’s 576MW Gwynt y Môr project off the coast of northern Wales.

Hannibal assumes Siemens will be able to transfer resources from London Array to Gwynt y Môr.

Further on the horizon is Iberdrola and Dong’s 389MW West of Duddon Sands, where commissioning is due to take place in 2014.

All the current projects use Siemens’ 3.6MW offshore turbine, with the exception of Teesside, which will take Siemens’ 2.3MW machine.

Hannibal says that working constantly with the 3.6MW turbine has helped Siemens get ever closer to true standardisation.

“Of course, we have different vessel set-ups and harbours, but we are starting much higher on the learning curve because we have tried so many vessels and harbour set-ups,” he says.

In the meantime, Siemens has begun work on a smaller but highly significant project at Dong’s Gunfleet Sands extension: the installation of the first two offshore prototypes of its new 6MW direct-drive turbine, which the company aims to produce in its yet-to-be-­confirmed factory in Hull, northeast ­England.

Hannibal says Siemens is also awaiting a decision on an installation vessel for the two machines, which will need to be worked out around its other projects and vessel availability windows. The company hopes to complete installation this year.

The 6MW turbine was designed in such a way as to minimise offshore work and allow onshore pre-commissioning, by, for example, ensuring that no equipment, such as power units and transformers, is located in the tower, as with previous models.

Hannibal hopes there will not be a gap between Siemens’ last big already-­contracted UK project — West of Duddon Sands — and the first Round 3 projects.

“We hope to be working in 2014, but it’s hard to tell which will be the first projects because of the planning system,” he says.

Elsewhere, Siemens is preparing to install 111 turbines to an “ambitious schedule” for Dong’s 400MW Anholt off Denmark.

And it has bagged new German projects including Baltic 2, Meerwind, Borkum Riffgat, Borkum Riffgrund, Amrum Bank and Dan Tysk. However, like everyone else, Siemens is waiting to see how the expected delays in transmission capacity work out before it plans construction.