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Offshore projects in the Baltic Sea – Impressions from the 4th International Maritime Conference in Poland

Thanks to the good market contacts of my DNV GL colleagues in Poland I have been invited to present on the 4th Maritime Conference in Szczecin in Poland last week.

The maritime conference is organised by the key stakeholders of the polish Maritime industry (Maritime Congress Foundation), whilst the offshore wind energy topics are prepared by Polish Wind Energy Association (PWEA) on behalf of the organizers. This time the offshore topics were given a substantial consideration with 2 long sessions focusing on offshore wind energy and high profile west and Eastern European Panellists and Speakers. The Congress was attended by approx. 1000 individuals from Poland and Europe. Amongst the Speakers was also the polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło. She attended on the second day to give the opening speech.

Travelling from Hamburg to Szczecin is a convenient journey – if you like trains! The train ride also gave me the opportunity to finally sharpen the edges of my presentation. Arriving in Szczecin I was overwhelmed by the architectural and historic-cultural richness of the city centre. Of course this impression was supported by the good choice of the conference location inside Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle and the Castle Opera as well as the excellent weather.

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Inside the castle backyard – coffee break

For the offshore session, the focus was on a discussion on European Experience in Offshore wind energy and some lessons learned from previous projects. Due to several assignments in Due Diligences in the North and Baltic Sea in the past I am confident of the potential for Offshore Wind in the Baltic Sea. In addition with personal involvement in the Measurement Platform FINO 2 lasting since 2009 I had the chance to see the wind potential explored very closely. I have expressed my view on the Baltic Sea as the hidden ”Pearl” amongst the offshore Wind markets several times before (e.g.: Baltic Sea Conference in Gdansk). So by getting the Opportunity to present, I was more than happy to illuminate on the experiences in offshore wind to support the development of the polish offshore wind energy market and the Baltic Offshore wind market in general.

From the offshore wind panel debate that was set before my presentation I learned that Poland will face challenges in the future onshore wind market due to market saturation and recent legislation changes.

Thus offshore wind energy will be a good opportunity for the market to further continue its growth in renewables. The polish offshore market is rather different to the German offshore market as there are currently only two major players owning valid licenses –  At the moment the moment these are PGE and Polenergia with 3GW each, with the total potential of approx. 6 GW capacity. In Germany on the other hand we have more fragmented developer and ownership landscape, which may change and consolidate with the coming legislation change in Germany in 2017. Thus in terms of ownership landscape the polish offshore wind market already seems more mature than the German offshore wind market.

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In the opera room – the prime minister given her speech

In my presentation I forged a bridge from past to future trends, utilizing 3 example offshore wind projects defining the different stages of offshore wind in Europe.

Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm I like as an example because the wind farm illustrates the onshore history and the step forward made in this project into the sea.

Horns Rev 1 is always the project best used to discuss the turning point of the offshore wind industry and explaining the parameters that have driven the complexity of offshore wind projects.

Borkum West II Phase 1 was my example for a recent project, chosen also to show that 200MW projects are a choice to keep the risk for the owners on a limited scale.

Based on those projects I extracted the more abstract relations of distance to shore and water depth towards structural complexity and installation logistics. Further some statistics on Capital Investment Costs (CAPEX) and an analysis on the contractual trends have been used, to explain a Risk Assessment Methodology that we have used in the past several times to guide our customers through the project development and construction period.

On my way home I was still considering why the Baltic Sea offshore wind opportunities outside of Germany currently seem to go ahead slower than expected. In Germany the overall offshore potential to be built in the Baltic Sea is much lower compared to the North Sea. The reason is just because of the available space.  However in terms of development progress the German Baltic Sea the projects developed – thus under construction and in operation – are approx. 65% of the total potential. In contrast in the North Sea only approx. 25% of the total potential is built yet. Thus the progression in the Baltic Sea is faster showing that the Baltic Projects in Germany are the ones in favour of the developers and financiers.

I partly need to conclude that it still will need some political directions to reveal the “Baltic pearls”. However I also learned in the early days of offshore wind energy in Germany that it will take longer than the ambitious engineers of the industry think to convince politicians in parallel of solving all kind of technical challenges.

With that in mind I safely returned to Hamburg looking forward to buy a weekend newspaper to read about the very recent decision of the cabinet on the new EEG 2016 (German Renewables Energy Act). – How will Germany go ahead with Offshore?

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