Ferrol became for the second consecutive year the epicentre of the offshore wind sector with the celebration of the second edition of the Galician Offshore International HUB, which brought together in the CIS of A Cabana the main operators, constructors and actors in general of this industry.
This year, the new line of action of the sector, the floating offshore wind power, was the main protagonist of the conference, which also served to outline the horizon and the challenges of the market in general and to analyse the participation of the Galician industry in this market.
In the first part of the day, three of the main offshore wind operators, Iberdrola, EDPR and Siemems, presented their views on the current state of the market. Estanislao Rey-Baltar, director of the Wikinger project, in which the Navantia-Windar joint venture participated with the construction of 29 jackets, explained the experience that it meant for the Spanish energy company to make the first major global commitment to a commercial wind farm such as the Baltic.
Iberdrola, he said, “is fully committed to offshore wind” and proof of this is the billions of euros it has in its portfolio for future investments in the sector. “All this money will end up going to contractors and subcontractors and we will be happy to take Galician industry along for the ride”.
Portuguese firm EDP Renováveis highlighted the potential of floating offshore, given the physical limitations of the offshore platform to install conventional jackets. Bautista Rodríguez, technical director of the Portuguese operator, acknowledged that this type of installation is still at a less mature stage than offshore wind anchored to the seabed, but predicted that these projects will be the big option for the future from the second half of the next decade. “They take advantage of the know-how of existing offshore wind, their facilities and have a huge competitive advantage in terms of logistics and transport,” he said.
Given the prominence of floating offshore at this conference, particularly relevant were the conferences on one of the pioneering wind farms of this kind, Statoil’s Hywind project, which will power 20,000 homes and in which Navantia and Windar have played a key role.
In addition, coinciding with this sector event, yesterday it was announced the completion of work on the five SPAR type structures that were built in recent months at the Fene factory. The first structure will be shipped on 5 May, followed by two more scheduled for 22 and 8 June.
Antonio Sánchez and José Carlos Álvarez, the heads of Navantia and Windar, respectively, for this programme, explained the construction and research challenges involved in this project. The physical dimensions of the structures (83 metres long and 3,500 tonnes) meant that the workshops of the former Astano had to be adapted and even the production strategy initially planned had to be changed.
Windar concentrated its efforts on R+D+i and as a result, some unique ingenuities arose to carry out the tasks of bending, welding, assembly and handling of the enormous pieces that make up the structures, explained the head of the Asturian company.
Another of the projects in which the Navantia-Windar joint venture will participate is the Nissum Brandning -it will make 4 jackets- of the Siemens Gamesa energy company. The person in charge of this project, Nissum Bredning, placed special emphasis on the challenge of reducing energy production in order to favour the viability of the sector and pointed to the year 2020 as the date by which the operators will cease to depend on public funding for this type of project.
The round table with the participation of the heads of Asime, Enrique Mallón; Aclunaga, Oscar Gómez; and Cluergal, José Ramón Franco, left important conclusions about the participation of the Galician industry in the offshore sector. The general secretary of Asime wanted to emphasize the interest that exists in the installation of this type of parks on the Galician coast and the promotional work of the auxiliary companies in the sector.
The manager of Aclunaga, for his part, acknowledged the effort made by Navantia to carry out this diversification in its line of business, which he said would be “illogical to turn back”. “It is difficult for the Fene shipyard to make ships again”, he pointed out. The Ferrol businessman Juan Ramón Franco wanted to emphasise the importance of training employees in the region to develop a competitive framework in offshore wind energy “and not at the cost of lowering workers’ salaries”, he said.
The last conference, which was given by Abel Méndez (commercial manager of Navantia) and Justo Acedo (general manager of Windar), focused on cost reduction in the design and construction of jackets.
Both agreed on the importance of this aspect in order to be competitive in a very demanding global market with few projects to share. “We have to be aware of the few projects that are awarded, more or less one a year. Currently there are 4 or 5 shipyards making structures for offshore wind energy, but in a few years the forecasts indicate that there will be 1 or 2, and Navantia has to be among them”, said Abel Méndez.
They also stressed that this is a very volatile business with large peaks and long periods of inactivity, and pointed to the rationalisation of the design of the structures as one of the challenges to reduce costs. According to forecasts, by 2020, manufacturing and design costs could reduce project investments by 20%.
Innovation and training
The Regional Minister of Economy, Employment and Industry, Francisco Conde, stressed during the closing ceremony of the conference that in order to have competitive companies it is necessary “to have reasonable prices” and highlighted that cost reduction “is achieved with innovation and technology”, a “joint challenge” that shipyards and auxiliary industry have to face. Without forgetting, he recalled, the training of workers.
Conde congratulated both Navantia and Windar for “the diversification undertaken” between the two companies to be able to provide activity to the facilities of the former Astano, thereby resuming activity in a shipyard that had been out of work for ten years”. He also highlighted “the commercial effort being made by Navantia to win new contracts in this field”.
The Regional Minister placed special emphasis on “the catalytic element that Iberdrola has had”, having placed its trust in the public company for its first major project in this sector.
DIARIO DE FERROL