Huge ships must increase the pace of wind mill construction
The massive shipyard in the Polish port of Gdynia is dirty and deserted. The site was once one of the many ‘trojmiasto’ three-city Gdynia-Sopot-Gdansk yards where union leader Lech Walesa founded Solidarnosc 31 years ago. Today however, one gigantic dry dock is the scene of much activity, with one of the biggest and most modern ships being built to construct wind farms at sea and act as service station for oil and gas platforms. The ‘windmill ship’ Innovation, constructed at a cost of 210 million euros, is owned by the German construction powerhouse Hochtief and the Belgian GeoSea, offshore affiliate of the Belgian dredging company DEME. The two players sealed their partnership with the 50/50 joint venture HGO InfraSea Solutions. HGO have high ambitions and are already planning a second ship. “The market for ships like these is enormous,” confirms Martin Rahtge, director of Hochtief Solutions. Offshore wind farms totalling in the region of 41.000 MW have been planned for Europe at an estimated investment cost of 100 billion euros by 2020. Half of these investments have already been approved, whereas only 3.000 MW in wind energy has so far been installed. The DEME C-Power project off the Belgian coast, which cost a total of 1.3 billion euros, generates 330 MW. A total of 3.000 MW in wind energy projects has been planned off the Belgian coast. Today GeoSea operates eight lifting vessels with cranes for the installation of wind turbines, and collaborated in the construction of 15 European offshore wind farms. The 150-meter long Innovation will go one step further. The ship is 42 meters wide and can be lifted from the water with four 90-meter pillars. Moreover it can handle waves as high as 3.5 meters, making it possible to work throughout winter. What sets it apart from others ships more than anything else is that its enormous deck is big enough to transport ten complete windmills in one piece. Says Alain Bernard, CEO of DEME: “A ship like this makes it possible to build a wind farm like C-Power’s in a matter of one to one-and-a-half years instead of the current two to three years. This makes a huge difference in respect of financing.” GeoSea and Hochtief will also use this ‘floating factory’ with its staff of 150 for the restoration and modernisation of oil and gas platforms. The Innovation will be launched next year and its first contract will be the construction of a wind farm in the German North Sea for Hochtief and the French producer of nuclear plants, Areva.