Time was not enough when Edwin van de Brug from the Dutch company Van Oord exclusively visited OffshoreVäst to talk about and discuss the latest developments in offshore wind power in Europe.
Edwin has been active in offshore wind power since 2001. But even after so many years, he is correctly claiming “We have just started …”. He refers to the fact that development of new solutions is still ongoing at high speed: “Bigger is better”, at least so far – and with size, also methods and design need to be developed constantly. For example, he mentions that turbine manufacturer Vestas has jumped from the previous 3MW platform up to 8-10MW platform in one sweep. It is assumed that the turbines will soon be 14MW and have a 200m diameter rotor. In principle, there is no installation vessel available.
And where does it end? The rapid pace of change makes it very difficult to plan long-term investments and balance the risks. It’s also very difficult to create a good return on innovations: each change quickly becomes relatively expensive at sea. And the pace of innovation is so high one cannot manage to get paid for the new solution before it already has become obsolete. Van de Brug also sees an ending to the earlier market cooperation for innovation in so-called Joint Industry Project (JIP). Competition has become much more important because of auction tendering systems that most countries have introduced. Only major utilities will be able to balance the risk of innovative changes through their projects, clusters and their portfolios.
An obstacle to improvements, is the highly top-down controlled procurement strategy. Thus very dependent on the high level of competence the tendering organization has access to. Rigid procurement procedures are also a limiting factor. Most utilities are nowadays obliged to follow EU tendering rules which results in the fact that any changes made whilst tendering create considerable cost and delay in the procurement process, and already negotiated contracts may need to be changed.
The question is whether the tendering organization is putting the right questions to the right supplier at the right time: What could be done better? How? What and who is needed? Van Oord’s strategy is to step into projects as minority owners to demonstrate their commitment to the project’s best and to influence the design and planning of the project early on. In the implementation phase, it is then clear to Edwin that the most important factor for a player who wants to be a long-term successful supplier within offshore wind power is to constantly monitor and control the interfaces: in design, construction, production and installation, both timely and financially as well as in the contracts: “align, align, align!” What ultimately counts is a fast and fault-free installation at sea (“cycle-time”) so that the suitable weather conditions can be fully utilized.
Thank you Edwin for your visit to Sweden, we have learned a lot this afternoon! Also thanks to all participants for your dedicated questions, discussions and conversations!