Project chief's Bard 'nightmare'

When Bernd Deharde was put in charge of the ill-starred 400MW Bard Offshore 1 (BO1) project in 2011, the year after he joined the now-defunct Bard group, “there were about 20 people who thought they were the project manager”, he says.

“Sometimes you have nightmares in your life, and this was the starting point of mine.”

Deharde — who is now the managing director of Off-Shore Wind Solutions (OWS), an O&M company that was spun off from the sinking Bard group — does not mince his words as he gives a blow-by-blow account of what went wrong at BO1, which was finally commissioned off Germany in 2013, years behind schedule and massively over budget.

There were many unusual aspects to Bard, but perhaps the most salient was the decision of founder Arngolt Bekker to build from scratch companies covering nearly every aspect of the offshore wind supply chain — from Cuxhaven Steel Construction (making tripod foundations) to Bard Energy (manufacturing 5MW turbines) to Bard Building (owner of the group’s in-house jack-up vessel, Wind Lift 1).

One of the company’s gravest mistakes was installing just three prototypes of its turbines — two of them onshore — before moving into offshore construction, Deharde says.

“You have three prototypes [of your technology] and now you’re going offshore? That’s something you shouldn’t do.”

Only once the company had started installing the turbines in the middle of the German North Sea did it realise it had to “redesign” the main shaft.

Ultimately, Bard was forced to swap out 30 nacelles in the field — “some of which already had rotor stars on them”. Other setbacks with the BO1 build-out included the late delivery of the Wind Lift 1 vessel and a damaged transformer platform.

For all its challenges, however, there is no denying that BO1 is a pioneering project in every sense of the word.

In addition to representing roughly 80% of Germany’s existing offshore wind capacity at present, it is also farther from shore than any other offshore wind farm in the world (90km from the coast) and set in deeper waters (45 metres).

By comparison, the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the London Array, is just 20km from the English coast and set in water depths averaging 25 metres.

OWS took over control of BO1 at the beginning of the year, and it will maintain the project for its owners, which include Italy’s UniCredit. But with 300 employees — even after 250 Bard workers were let go — one of Deharde’s most pressing challenges is finding additional work for the new company.

In addition to its O&M capabilities, Emden-based OWS “still has the opportunity to manufacture turbines or rotor blades”, Deharde notes hopefully. It also owns the crew-transfer vessel Ocean Zephyr and the charter of Wind Lift 1.