Servicing around 2,200 wind turbines and 56 substations under fixed maintenance contracts, as well as repairs and assessments for a further 1,500 plants, Deutsche Windtechnik AG has experienced rapid growth since being established in 2007. Last year, the company experienced a near 40% in turnover, which passed the 70 million Euro mark for the first time and this was largely on the back of its offshore activities and international service work onshore.

When it comes to offshore wind, Deutsche Windtechnik has only been active on a systematic basis for just a few years. It had carried out on the spot rotor blade repairs on the Dutch offshore wind farm Egmond aan Zee in the past and other ad hoc repairs, but the company has boosted its offshore presence considerably.

The company is now involved in a wide range of repair work offshore, including the turbines, substations and other offshore components. Additionally, clients are asking the company to get involved in an early stage in production monitoring, commissioning, risk assessments and management processes.

Deutsche Windtechnik Offshore and Consulting Chief Executive Officer Carl Rasmus Richardsen, (a founder of Windstrom, which was acquired by Deutsche Windtechnik in 2012), explains why the company took the decision to move into offshore. “After the ad hoc jobs we were then awarded a contract by Vattenfall in 2012 to supervise the turbine manufacturing and blades. This proved successful and we felt it was time to develop this business further.”

Vattenfall asked the offshore division to carry out some construction and assembly supervision for turbines for DanTysk. It was Deutsche Windtechnik’s job to systematically document and analyse the whole construction and manufacturing process and monitor compliance. Comprising 80 SIEMENS® SWT-3.6 turbines in an area 70 square kilometres west of the island of Sylt, DanTysk is a joint project between Vattenfall and Stadtwerke München.

In the first instance Deutsche Windtechnik supervised the delivery and storage of the first nacelles at the base port in Esbjerg, Denmark. Then there were three overlapping construction phases which were partly supported by Deutsche Windtechnik: pre-assembly in the port, the mechanical completion of the turbines at sea and the pre-commissioning. Deutsche Windtechnik had to inspect the incoming materials and nacelles, the storage concept as well as the inspection of the transport of components to the wind farm.

DanTysk OSS

Mr Richardsen explains that this was partly such a successful project because servicing and commissioning Siemens turbines was very much the specialism of Windstrom and this knowledge has been integrated into the Group. When Windstrom was acquired it was servicing 340 contracts, all of which deployed SIEMENS® turbines.

“This experience with Siemens turbines meant we know the SWT-3.6 very well.” The relationship with DanTysk has recently been further extended when in March this year, the service contract for DanTysk’s offshore substation also became part of its growing portfolio.

The company was also awarded a four-year met mast servicing contract from RWE Innogy GmbH, in June 2012, for Nordsee Ost, which it carries out together with Offshore GmbH (A4O). Part of the agreement includes the maintenance and repair of the supporting structure above water, the lattice masts, power supply, safety facilities and measuring technology and the technical inspection. Forty-eight 6MW wind turbines are planned for the Nordsee Ost project.

Substation maintenance work is a key component of the company’s activities. In addition to typical maintenance work to the primary transformation technology and the switchgear, the company also provides support for secondary technology at the substation – power supply generators, air-conditioning, communications technology, HSE facilities, building technology, helicopter pad and lighting for example.

DanTysk and the RWE contracts provided a natural platform to build from, he adds and Deutsche Windtechnik came to the conclusion that it should have a dedicated offshore wind company. This led to the creation of the Offshore and Consulting section in June 2013. This division now has some 60 employees.

Early involvement

Less than a year later in June 2014, Deutsche Windtechnik was awarded the contract for the maintenance and servicing of the substation at the Butendiek Offshore Wind Farm. This contract includes extensive maintenance, inspection, monitoring and service work. As Deutsche Windtechnik had provided support during the construction, transport and erection of the substation in close cooperation with the wind farm operator, OWP Butendiek GmbH & Co. KG, and the manufacturer, Cofely Fabricom GDF Suez, the servicing concept was developed and validated practically ‘on site’. In addition to the commissioning of the substation, Deutsche Windtechnik monitored production of the rotor blades and the construction of the nacelles for Butendiek.

OW22_spread 20 2Early involvement here played an important role, Mr Richardsen says. After the substation was transported in May last year and the platform was welded to the foundation, electrical systems were gradually started in the substation. Cold commissioning was merged step by step into maintenance and service work, he stresses. “By the time hot commissioning started the company was familiar with all components of the construction and will have optimised and tested all the service processes ensuring a smooth operation right from the start.”

Additionally next year it will start work on Nordergrunde This will involved 18 Senvion 6.2M126 turbines. For this project, the company will service the transition pieces, OSS and it will be the first contract that includes all the subsea inspection as well.

Mr Richardsen admits that it has been quite an adjustment moving from the onshore to offshore wind industry, despite many years experience onshore. “There were some major differences, none more so than the number of customers. When considering our home market in Germany, we handle some 2,000 turbines which are owned by at least 600 customers but with offshore, we have some 200 turbines in our portfolio but only two customers!”

Further offshore

Offshore customers are much more powerful and aware of what is going on and more willing to take over some of the risks, he says. And for the most part they are not looking for full service contracts in contrast to business onshore.

“Of course, it is a marine env ironment as well but even considering the difference between the early projects and now, there has been a fundamental change. The first projects were very much ‘out of the harbour’ and now our service technicians need to be housed on accommodation vessels or on platforms.”

Crew transport has also upgraded considerably, he points out. When we started the smaller, 19m crew transfer vessels with water jets were used but now the industry is moving on to another class, the 25 to 26m, where it is much easier for crews to step over safely. “A few years ago 1.5m wave heights was a theory and now 2 metres is no problem.”

With accommodation the O&M industry is still adapting and learning, he emphasises. For example, at DanTysk Deutsche Windtechnik’s technicians are based on the OSS directly. “This is not ideal,” he says and in the future DanTysk will have an accommodation platform next to the OSS. “At DanTysk, the commissioning starts in August. Until now our people have had to live in a temporary living quarter (TLQ). Having four guys in a 20ft container is certainly not optimal, especially with helicopters flying on and off, when they are trying to sleep etc.” This has been recognised by the company and 14-day on/off shifts have now been changed to 7-day periods, he stresses.

Disparity between regulations

The O&M industry is still evolving, he stresses. When considering health and safety issues, and the legal framework the industry operates in, there is still a lot to be done. Mr Richardsen says effectively the HSE demands are largely dependent on the individual project offshore. “There is little synergy between countries.”

In Germany, for example, the Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH, Federal Maritime and Hydro-graphic Agency) guidelines are in place and these are very strict but in the UK, these cannot be applied. The BSH rules mean that 20% of the welding on the foundations have to undergo a subsea inspection but this is not the case in the UK and the Netherlands. “It really depends on the project at the moment.”

He believes that the GWO certification is a step in the right direction and is very helpful in preventing discrepancies. However, he points out that even when there are guidelines in place there are questions about who’s controlling these guidelines, he stresses. “Who is responsible? In Germany, inspectors are not allowed to go 12 nautical miles offshore.

Yes of course, wind farms undergo safety risk assessments, there are HSE handbooks but this theory is not checked. We are all largely self-governing.”

Strong growth

Looking ahead, he expects strong growth in the O&M sector and in work for the independent service providers. But certainly in Germany, he stresses, there has been some reluctance, with many of the utilities preferring to do at least 50% of the jobs themselves.

“However, I think they have now found out that it is extremely expensive to hire in people for 100 turbines, plus the high voltage specialist, etc. on long-term service contracts. Many are happy that we can deliver solutions for them.”

OW22_spread 20 3He also expects there to be more arrangements whereby if the company is not familiar with a certain turbine it could set up on the job training (with 50% of the service) and then after five years guaranteed 100% of turbines services.

Although full service packages are not in place at the moment, it is important that the industry changes. “Taking on more risks for the customer is the only way to get the costs of end energy down.”

Full service packages

It is surprising, he says, that the O&M sector is still so fragmented. “A lot of money is being burnt between these interfaces. The full service package will happen because there is this terrific loss between all these interfaces – there are hundreds of components and suppliers. “It is changing. In Germany offshore wind farms are relatively new, particularly those further offshore. But there are good discussions going on in the Netherlands for the older wind farms.”

And he stresses unlike competitors, Deutsche Windtechnik will always be looking to do each element itself. “We don’t hire in subcontractors often, I would say at least 90% of the work is carried out by our own people and equipment. “We have control and can synergise between the different tasks. If the O&M company is coordinating all these different suppliers, there is not so much space for synergy.”

The company expects to have requests to take over the full service package, including the turbines in the future. “I certainly hope that we will be able to take over the complete package – have the turbines and OSS under one umbrella, or can full service contract without weather risks.”

Dedicated training

Currently, Deutsche Windtechnik is not looking too far afield offshore but it is looking forward to entering the UK market shortly and then the second stop will be the Dutch market.

And to ensure it can keep up with demand, it started its own offshore training programme this year, which will look to take around 20 recruits a year.

“We are confident of the opportunities and that we are one of very few companies that can offer the full range of O&M services in-house, without turning to subcontractors.”

Helen Hill