Nordex purchase to act as offshore test bed

GERMANY: German turbine builder Nordex's acquisition of a 40% stake in the Arcadis Ost 1 offshore wind station in the Baltic Sea is to turn the farm into a test bed for a new generation of 4MW-plus offshore turbines.

Nordex is developing a new family of turbines in the 4MW class. The Arcadis station will be used by as a testing ground for the new offshore machines.

Thomas Richerich, chief executive of Nordex, says: "Following preliminary test installations in the Baltic Sea, Arcadis Ost 1 will be our reference project in the offshore market." The first four offshore prototype machines are due to be installed for testing at the Arcadis site this year. These will be followed by up to ten machines at the site in 2014, with installations continuing thereafter in 2015. The new offshore machine will use gearbox-free direct-drive technology, according to Nordex.

In total, the first full phase of the station is to comprise 70 turbines totalling at least 300MW, Nordex says. This figure suggests the Nordex test offshore turbine will boast a capacity of at least 4.3MW, bigger than Siemens' workhorse offshore turbine at 3.6MW and Vestas' recently launched 3MW offshore machine - but smaller than Repower Systems 5MW and 6.15MW offshore turbines, and Bard Engineering and Areva Multibrid's 5MW offshore units.

Arcadis will be one of just a few German offshore projects located relatively close to shore, within the country's 12-nautical-mile domestic waters. The turbines will therefore be relatively easily accessible, a useful attribute for a test station. Nature protection zones along Germany's North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts largely rule out near-shore wind developments.

Nordex acquired its 40% in the Arcadis Ost 1 project company (known as KNK Wind) from WV Energie, which remains majority shareholder with about 50%.

The other 10% of the Arcadis project is owned by a number of municipal utilities. The project was initiated by Arcadis Consult, part of Dutch engineering group Arcadis, and sold in October 2008 to WV Energie. Arcadis Consult continues in the role of project developer.

Nordex has already gathered some offshore experience with two 2.5MW turbines. One has been in operation in the Danish Kattegatt, off the port of Frederikshavn, since 2003. The other has been located off the coast of the German Baltic Sea port of Rostock since 2006.

The company had hoped to supply the offshore turbines for the Baltic 1 offshore station, on which construction officially began last month. But after major German energy company EnBW acquired the project from WPD Offshore in May 2008, it decided in April last year to switch to Siemens 2.3MW machines, overturning an agreement for Nordex 2.5MW machines that WPD had signed in late 2007. It is likely that a parallel deal between EnBW and Nordex to jointly develop wind projects on land in Europe sweetened the loss of the offshore project.

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