MHI VESTAS OFFSHORE WIND: Off to a Flying Start

As the first anniversary of the creation of MHI Vestas Offshore Wind approaches the company looks back on a pretty good year as it lands its first commercial order for the much heralded V164-8.0 MW® and is named the preferred supplier for the Walney Extension project. The company has already seen employee numbers grow and it has established a blade production facility in the UK.

MHI Vestas Offshore Wind

Officially established in April 2014, MHI Vestas Offshore Wind brings two leading companies together, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Vestas, an offshore wind pioneer and developer of the V164-8.0 MW®. MHI Vestas Offshore Wind CEO Jens Tommerup says: “After a couple of years considering the venture, the two companies looked at the offshore wind market and decided that together they stood much stronger. Vestas has the technology and more than 20 years experience in wind farm project management and MHI, the financial stability and good relationships with large customers working in the energy sector.

“We knew this partnership would make it possible to scale up to deliver the very large power plants of the future. With this combination of the technology, experience, bankability and strength MHI Vestas Offshore Wind is poised to grab a significant slice of the growing offshore wind market.”

Headquartered in Denmark, MHI Vestas Offshore Wind now has 550 people on board, the majority of which are based in Denmark and the UK but it also has staff in the Netherlands and Germany. The company is continuing to expand and recently announced that it was recruiting 200 people on the Isle of Wight, where it has established its blade manufacturing facility.

V164-8.0 MW®

Essentially the company focuses on two turbines, its own V164-8.0 MW® and the Vestas V112-3.3 MW™ IEC IB and it provides full service packages for existing wind farms. While MHI Vestas Offshore Wind is entirely responsible for the V164-8.0 MW®, MHI Vestas will continue to sell, install and service the V112-3.3 MW™.

The new super 8MW turbine has got off to a flying start in that it has already become a record breaker by producing the most power produced by a turbine in one day when it achieved 192MWh, supplying 13,000 households.

Then in just a few months there have been two major successes. In February, the company became the preferred supplier for the first 330MW of DONG Energy’s Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm project in the UK. If DONG Energy takes the final investment decision, blades will be manufactured at the new Isle of Wight facility. At the time, Samuel Leupold, Executive Vice President for DONG Energy Wind Power, said: “The performance of the V164-8.0MW wind turbine has been a decisive factor in our decision to choose it for phase 1 of the Walney Extension development project.”

The Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm has a capacity of 660MW and is located approximately 19 kilometres off the English east coast, next to the 367.2MW Walney Offshore Wind Farm. Offshore construction could potentially start in 2016.

First commercial kick-off at Burbo Bank extension

This preferred supplier status followed on from an announcement in December 2014, when the company received a breakthrough order for the V164-8.0 MW® from DONG Energy for 32 of the 8MW turbine for its 258MW Burbo Bank Extension project off the coast of Liverpool Bay in the UK. DONG Energy was closely involved in the development and testing of the turbine.

OW22_spread 2The 80m blades for this project will be produced at the new manufacturing facility on the Isle of Wight on the site of the Vestas’ blades technology centre which opened in 2011 and is specifically designed to develop large blades for the next generation wind turbines. It consists of two halls of 170m long and 50m wide, one for testing and verification and one for blade production and this hall is being leased by MHI Vestas Offshore Wind.

The blades for the V164-8.0 MW® prototype were already designed, manufactured and tested at the Isle of Wight facility so it is a good location to prepare for serial production, says Mr Tommerup. Vestas will continue to conduct research and development of blade technology on the Isle of Wight.

This facility will therefore become the first one to go into serial production of blades for the UK’s Round 3 projects. Production on the Burbo Bank blades is expected to start in May.

The nacelles will be built in MHI Vestas’ Lindoe facility in Denmark, which was a former shipbuilding yard. Components will be preassembled in a temporary facility in  the port of Belfast. The Burbo Bank Extension project will eventually produce enough energy to supply approximately 180,000 houses.

The order includes the supply, installation and commissioning of the wind turbines, as well as a five-year full scope service contract. Installation is likely to get underway in 2016 and commissioning is expected to be completed in 2017.

Mr Tommerup says the order marks a historic milestone for MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, being the first commercial order for its flagship wind turbine. He added that the order represented a significant vote of confidence from the world’s leading developer of offshore wind.

“We believe that the 8MW turbine is very competitive when looking at Round 3 and the larger sites in Europe. We now have one firm order and a preferred supplier status from a leading company, underlining our credibility.” This machine will contribute to driving down the cost of offshore wind energy, which is vital for the industry, he stresses. “Utility companies and our other major customers are looking for solutions that provide the lowest cost of energy.”

From big to bigger

The 8MW turbine was awarded Type B certification in November 2014 and it is on track for full certification in the first quarter. Originally, the turbine had been 7MW and then it was further developed into the 8MW.

OW22_spread 3The development of the prototype was slowed to align with Vestas’ offshore market outlook at the time, he says but then once the joint venture came into place, the foot was again firmly on the accelerator for the launch of a new prototype in January 2014.

The V164-8.0 MW®, which has a geared/direct-drive drive train is actually very similar to the Vestas V112-3.3 MW, Mr Tommerup explains. “With the 3MW we had arrived at the correct power rating, blade length and dimensions to provide the best cost of energy ratio for our customers, but it is clear the new generation of wind farms need larger turbines, so essentially we have scaled it up.”

This much larger turbine helps achieve the cost reductions needed, he adds. “It has a carbon fibre structure, a light but strong blade. We now realise many more MW per turbine which saves on the amount of time it takes to install, with much fewer lifts per MW compared to the 3MW. Fewer larger turbines reduces the amount of subsea electrical cabling and foundations. The V164-8.0 MW can be delivered with either a 33kV or a 66kV transformer/ switchgear. Using the 66kV system increases the amount of the turbines that can be located on one electrical string.”

Vestas is finalising the R&D work on the V164-8.0 MW on behalf of MHI Vestas and he explains that the Vestas technology department had several work streams going on to find the best drive train solutions. “Vestas was very focused on lowering costs and the medium speed, geared drive train was the solution to provide the best total levellised cost of energy.

“We have gone for proven technology, there are not too many fundamental changes from the 3MW. We have built on our knowledge, rather than creating a totally new solution, reinventing the wheel.”

Still a future for the 3MW turbine

He stresses that the 3MW will however continue to be part of the company’s business. The company has a backlog of 3MW projects and will be installing at the Humber Gateway  and Kentish Flats Extension projects in the UK and Eneco Luchterduinen in the Netherlands this year. Additionally, it will continue to carry out its existing service contracts, which represent 1.1GW.

OW22_spread 4In the medium term, at least until 2020, the market as far as the company is concerned is in Europe. But it also has a good base in Japan from its parent company and Taiwan, South Korea and the US are interesting potential markets, he adds. There are also no immediate plans to offer other turbines or to move into other market related sectors such as foundations and transition pieces, he stresses.

“We are very optimistic about offshore wind. At the moment we are performing on track. It is almost our first anniversary. We have had a strong year with the first order from an independent company and we are the preferred supplier for another even larger project. The V164-8.0 MW turbine is performing well and we are delivering on our service contracts. We were also very proud to receive the Breakthrough Award 2014 from RenewableUK for our 8MW platform. We are all looking forward to the future!”

Helen Hill

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