Long-term investors move into wind power

Paul Boughton

Advances in technology and a flurry of new projects are attracting serious investors into the wind energy market. Sean Ottewell reports.

Vestas has produced the first prototype 80 metre blade for the V164-8.0 MW - the world's most powerful offshore wind turbine - at its R&D centre on the Isle of Wight, UK. The blade will now undergo an extensive testing regime to ensure total reliability.

The 80 metre blade is the longest ever produced by the company and uses the structural shell design, a proven concept in which the loads of the blade are carried in the shell, rather than using a spar at the centre of the blade (Fig. 1).

The length of the blade is the equivalent of nine double decker London buses and the swept area of the rotor will be 21,124m2.

In order to validate the strength and reliability of the blade it will be tested to its limits for six months, reproducing the challenging wind conditions of the North Sea over a simulated 25 year lifetime.

Chief technology officer Anders Vedel says the tests will provide certainty to customers looking to make large investments in offshore wind: "Test and verification of the blade is a critical stage of the development of the V164-8.0MW. Moving as much of the verification process as possible into our state of the art test centre ensures the blade, the bearing and other components perform to the high standards our customers expect."

Prototype installation

The V164-8.0MW prototype will be installed in the first quarter of 2014 at the Danish national testing centre in Østerild.

In contract news, Vestas has received two orders totalling 100MW from Ningxia-based Hanas New Energy (Hanas), the leading regional natural gas supplier in China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region (NHAR). Less than a month ago, Hanas ordered 50MW from Vestas, which brought the company's portfolio of Vestas turbines up to 250MW. With today's two additional orders, Hanas' portfolio of Vestas turbines amounts to 350 MW and Vestas remains the sole supplier.

The new V100-2.0MW turbine model is built on the well-known 2MW platform which, with its large rotor diameter, is designed and optimised for low wind sites. The turbines will be installed in the Yanchi wind farm. Delivery of the first wind turbine is expected to start in the second quarter of 2014.

Nordex Group has been awarded a contract for construction of the Manfredonia wind farm close to the town of the same name on Italy's Adriatic coast. The investor is a special purpose vehicle called Eolsiponto which is owned by Capital Riesgo Global - a company of Banco Santander - and Alerion Clean Power.

The contract marks the first time that power producer Alerion has opted for Nordex turbines. With an installed capacity of over 250 MW, this company is one of the largest independent power producers and project developers in Italy.

Work on installing the seven N100/2500 turbines is to commence in spring 2014. The wind farm will have an installed capacity of 17.5 MW, sufficient to generate almost 40 GWh of clean energy a year, and preventing the emission of 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

At the same time, Nordex's business in Pakistan is continuing to gain momentum. FWEL I, the second 50MW contract of five on conditional order from Nordex, has now been given the go ahead. Fauji Foundation and the infrastructure fund Cap Asia (Malaysia) are the major shareholders.

The 20 N100/2500MW turbines are to be installed in the province of Sindh in 2014. This is the same province where the other two wind farms - FFCEL and FWEL II - are located. The close proximity of all three projects will enable Nordex to leverage synergies such as centralising the provision of services under the warranty and operations and maintenance contracts. As with the other wind farms, Nordex will be executing the new project with its local partner Descon Engineering.

"The experience which we have gained with such complex projects and the technical adjustments to our turbines for operation in such climatic conditions are key determinants for our leading market position in Pakistan," says Lars Bondo Krogsgaard, a member of Nordex's management board.

New investors come on board

In business news, Fortum and Metsähallitus have agreed to sell their Kuolavaara-Keulakkopää and Joukhaisselkä pre-construction stage wind power projects in Lapland to Impax New Energy Investors II (NEF ll), a fund managed by Impax Asset Management (Impax). Fortum's share of the projects is 51 per cent and Metsähallitus's 49 per cent.

The Kuolavaara-Keulakkopää project is located in the Kittilä and Sodankylä municipalities. A wind park consisting of 17 wind power plants with an output of approximately 50MW is planned for the area. The Joukhaisselkä's wind power park of 8-10 turbines, with a planned output of about 25MW, is located in the Sodankylä municipality. Fortum and Metsähallitus have developed the projects jointly.

The Impax NEF II fund closed in August 2011 and has EUR330 million of capital committed to the renewable energy sector. It has a growing portfolio of wind power projects including over 200 MW in construction and operation in France, Germany and Poland, as well as solar photovoltaic investments in Italy.

In other investor news, Allianz Capital Partners (ACP) has acquired two wind parks in France and one in Italy on behalf of Allianz. In the Pas-de-Calais administrative region in northern France, ACP bought the 8MW Frévent project and the 12MW Ivergny project. The wind farms were acquired by Allianz from a subsidiary of the Paris-based renewable energy development company Eurowatt SCA. Both projects are currently under construction with expected completion dates during the first half of 2014.

30MW capacity

In Italy, ACP has bought the Erchie wind farm project in the Puglia region in the south of the country. It has a capacity of 30MW and has been in operation since December 2012. The seller is renewable energy development company Eneris.

With a combined capacity of 50MW, the three plants are expected to generate sufficient energy to power more than 28,000 average European households.

In an earlier move, ACP also acquired the 20MW wind farm Haut Chemin in France on behalf of Allianz. The wind farm is based in the Haut Marne region in the northeast of France. The project, acquired from leading French renewable energy company EOLE-RES, is currently under construction with commercial utilisation scheduled for summer 2014. Once commissioned, the wind farm will be operated by EOLE-RES.

Meanwhile Moventas Group has acquired its Clyde Blowers-owned sister company David Brown Gears Systems' wind gear business along with David Brown's UK-based production unit with test facilities and a service workshop.

The new company continues David Brown's on-going, 7MW offshore turbine drivetrain development with Samsung Heavy Industries, announced in the beginning of 2012.

The new company will be manufacturing the 7 MW gearboxes, with engineering and component supply from both UK and Finland.

The acquisition makes Moventas the leading multi-megawatt and offshore wind gearbox manufacturer. Added to the Samsung co-operation, Moventas has existing offshore multi-megawatt gearbox technology for Areva and the FusionDrive gear and generator combination for DSME/DeWind.

Service centre

The acquisition also accelerates Moventas' entry to the lucrative UK and Irish wind service market. David Brown has an established, well-equipped service centre in Huddersfield, UK, from the where the new company will continue to operate

"We are very excited to be able to locally cater for the growing needs of what's expected to be the no. 1 offshore wind market in the world within the next years. The great match between our wind business and that of David Brown's enables a fast creation of added value to our customers," says Moventas President & CEO Mikael Laine.

Michigan sings 105MW wind farm deal

Michigan company Consumers Energy has signed a contract with Southfield-based Barton Malow for engineering, procurement and construction services at its US$255 million (EUR169 million) Cross Winds Energy Park, a 105MW wind farm in Tuscola County.

About 150 construction jobs are expected to be created when Cross Winds begins construction later this year and into 2014 in Tuscola County's Akron and Columbia townships. The contract includes: designing, engineering and constructing the park's turbine foundations, access roads, an operations and maintenance building; erecting the park's 62 wind turbines; and building the infrastructure that connects the turbines to the electrical grid. Barton Malow has previous experience building wind farms in Michigan. An independent economic study estimated that construction of Cross Winds will generate direct and indirect output in Michigan valued at US$160.2 million (EUR120.4 million).

Cross Winds is Consumers Energy's second wind farm; the Lake Winds Energy Park began operating near Ludington in November 2012. Consumers Energy is Michigan's leading supplier of renewable energy with about 8 per cent of the electricity supplied to customers coming from Michigan-based renewable projects. Completion of Cross Winds by late 2014 will help the company meet Michigan's renewable energy standard, which requires 10 per cent of the state's energy supply to come from renewable sources by 2015.

Consumers Energy is Michigan's largest utility. Overall it provides natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state's 10 million residents.

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