Gamesa, a global wind power technology leader, continues to make progress on the implementation of its offshore wind market strategy. The latest milestone is the decision to start the permitting process for the installation of its first offshore prototype, the G128-5.0 MW (50 Hz), at Arinaga Quay in Gran Canary Island (Canary Islands, Spain).
Gamesa expects to begin the installation of this prototype in the second quarter of 2013, with a view to achieving certification in the following months, to permit the installations of the pre-series turbines in an offshore wind farm towards the end of 2013 or early 2014. Following extensive research to identify suitable sites, Gamesa selected Arinaga on the basis of technical considerations for certification, wind conditions in the region, market performance and customer investment plans and its forecast. This offshore prototype will be the first to be installed in Spain.
Region offering high wind resources and scope for attractive returns on investment
Gamesa's priority in the offshore market is to achieve product certification in order to guarantee the successful launch, marketing and manufacturing of its offshore platforms in the years ahead. The site selected boasts optimal conditions for the installation, validation and certification of the prototype: the region has high wind resources (strong trade winds) combined with availability of wind data from meteorological towers. The selected location will also optimise returns on the investment from the prototype's wind production and reduced transportation cost, due to the relative proximity to Gamesa's factories in Spain where the turbine will be manufactured.
Investment tailored to market trends
The installation of the Gamesa's first offshore prototype in Europe freezes the offshore prototype project in Virginia (United States), in Cape Charles. The milestone to design a competitive offshore turbine in the R&D centre in Virginia has been fulfilled, but the prospects for the U.S. offshore market and its regulatory conditions in this segment so far do not justify the next step, the installation of a prototype in the U.S.
"The offshore wind power market is developing at a firm pace. However, demand is being tempered by economic and financial factors and the difficulties being encountered by developers in accessing credit. The authorities are firmly committed to the development of offshore wind power in major markets such as the UK, Germany, France and China. Based upon the current situation, the U.S. market appears to be set to develop later than others. Regional and country specific market conditions warrant even more rational decision-making process than ever, from both the technology and financial standpoints", said Jorge Calvet, Chairman and CEO of Gamesa.
As a result, the Offshore Wind Technology Centre, opened jointly with Newport News Shipbuilding, will wind down at the end of the year as the design of the G11X- 5.0 MW offshore platform is completed. The U.S. onshore market remains a strategic cornerstone of Gamesa's business and investment plans. The company has become the third largest manufacturer in this market by installed capacity in the Q1 2012. Concurrently, Gamesa will closely monitor the offshore segment as it considers how best to participate in future projects.
Proven and certified technology
Gamesa has designed and developed its first offshore platform, the G11X-5.0 MW, with a 128-meter rotor and a modular and redundant design, to guarantee reliability while maximising power output. The G128-5.0 MW suite uses proven and validated technology developed by Gamesa for the G10X-4.5 MW wind turbine platform, leveraging Gamesa's know-how and track record built up in the field.
"Starting from proven, validated and certified technology is unquestionably a competitive advantage. We realised that we were already well along the learning curve. Even so, the variable and extreme conditions to which offshore wind platforms are exposed, impeding facility access on occasion, prompted us to design the G128-5.0 MW with maximum reliability, minimal down time, and reduced maintenance work so it can achieve competitive energy costs and optimal returns throughout the entire useful life of a given wind farm", according to Javier Perea, Managing Director of Gamesa's Commercial, Projects and Offshore Division.
Offshore manufacturing in the UK
In parallel to development of its offshore technology, Gamesa is making progress on the installation of its offshore manufacturing base. To this end, it recently announced it had entered talks with the Forth Ports at Leith (Scotland) regarding the establishment of its offshore manufacturing base in the UK, which will comprise the installation of nacelles and blades manufacturing plants, as well as port logistics and operations and maintenance (O&M) service platforms. Depending on how the market develops, this new manufacturing base could generate around 800 new jobs in the UK. Over the coming years, and depending on the sales opportunities, Gamesa's UK program could entail investment of roughly €150 million.