Spain aims to lead the offshore wind tower construction industry


Industry and shipyards team up to provide technology for Northern European wind farms. The industry is already working on future offshore wind farms off the coast of Spain.

The capricious sea relief and regulation have hindered the installation of the wind farms planned for our coast and Spain has been left behind in the offshore wind race. However, until this is resumed, Spanish industry aspires to become one of the world’s major suppliers of technology and infrastructure in the offshore energy sector. The first objective is to be one of the first contractors for the installations to be deployed in the coming years in the waters of the United Kingdom and Germany.

The growth of this energy source is exponential. In Europe alone, installed capacity is increasing at an annual rate of more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) and accumulated capacity now stands at 8,045.2, according to figures at the end of 2014 from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). The sector’s forecasts point to a worldwide increase of around 28,000 MW over the next five years, of which around 50% will be installed in the United Kingdom and Germany, countries that already account for 68.9% of the power deployed in the Old Continent.

“This could make northern Spain a benchmark for the contracting of wind towers and foundations for these German and British wind farms,” explains Orlando Alonso, president of Windar renovables, an Asturian company owned by the Daniel Alonso Group and Gamesa. This company is already working with the public shipyards Navantia in Fene (La Coruña) and Puerto Real (Cádiz) on the construction of the anchoring structures that Iberdrola will use for its offshore wind farm in Wikinger (Germany), where it will install 70 wind turbines to achieve a total capacity of 350 MW and which will require a total investment of 1.4 billion euros.

This contract awarded by the company chaired by Ignacio Galán at the beginning of the year to Windar and Navantia means revenue of 90 million euros, the employment of 450 employees – 600 or 700 at peak times – and a workload of 641,000 hours for the underused Galician factory of the public shipyards, which will be responsible for the production of 29 jackets, the structures on which the offshore wind turbines are built, for Iberdrola. Although the most important thing is that, according to the whole industry, it could open the door to new orders that could consolidate Navantia as a reference in the offshore sector. 

More contracts in sight

In fact, Windar is optimistic about the possibilities of winning new orders in the coming months in open tenders in European countries, and the commitment of the Avilés-based company to the Navantia plant in Fene, which is seeking to diversify its activity, is at a maximum. In fact, Alonso believes that new orders would give continuity to that of Iberdrola for Wikinger and would ensure workload for several years in the slipways of the former Astano. “Clearly, due to its size and geographical location, the Fene shipyard could be a great beneficiary”, he adds.

Spain, according to all sources consulted, has a great competitive advantage for several reasons.

The first is the technological experience acquired with the huge expansion of onshore wind power, a field in which the country has been a world leader. In addition, Spanish factories have a large manufacturing capacity in terms of facilities, and have access to the sea, which is very important in this offshore industry because it facilitates the transport of equipment and reduces costs. “Spain is at the forefront of R&D&I in wind energy development and is the world’s third largest exporter of wind turbines,” explains the technical director of the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE), Kilian Rosique, who believes that in any case, to meet the aforementioned future demand, production capacity would need to be increased. “That would be great news,” he says.