Lack of orders closes Bard blade factory

GERMANY: Bard has announced its blade factory in Emden, north-west Germany, will close at the end of June as a result of a lack of orders. The plant has nothing lined up beyond blade deliveries for the 80 turbines for the Bard Offshore 1 project. Beyond this, none of Bard's potential investors have expressed interest in keeping the plant running.

The outlook for future turbine production is also uncertain. The first 16 of Bard's 5MW turbine are now operating under North Sea marine conditions at Bard Offshore 1, and a proven track record would be valued by investors. But it is unclear whether plans to put a 6.5MW machine into series production in 2013 will proceed. Two prototypes were installed onshore at Bard's research-and-development facility at Rysumer Nacken near Emden, Germany in spring 2011. The bigger turbine has been slated for use in a number of offshore projects that Bard has under development.

On the brighter side, interest in Bard's offshore-turbine tripile foundation production looks stronger. The firm said that intensive talks are under way with potential partners and wind project developers over foundations supplies from its subsidiary, Cuxhaven Steel Construction, that would keep the works running after deliveries to Bard Offshore 1 have been completed.

However, the long process of finding a rescuer for the Bard offshore wind group may at last be approaching a conclusion. An investor may be announced before mid-year, said Bard spokesman Axel Bahr. Two potential investors have made non-binding offers, and talks are continuing with several other consortia, he revealed.

The struggle to find investors has been a long one. In 2010, Bard signed a memorandum of understanding with Gamesa. The deal would have seen the two companies jointly marketing and developing offshore services and products. But by July 2010, the talks had been terminated with neither company giving much away on why the talks failed.

More than a year later, in September 2011, JP Morgan was chosen to find a new investor, sparking interest around the world. Press reports have suggested a purchase price of a two-digit million euro sum is on the cards, with potentially interested companies including Daewoo, General Electric, Alstom and Areva. Alstom has also been reported as currently interested in acquiring part or all of Repower Systems, which has both onshore and offshore turbine technologies.

Since Bard was launched in 2003, it has run into increasing difficulties as offshore wind unfolded into a much more complex, risky and expensive business than originally anticipated. With the entry of a new investor, its ambition to establish a unique and fully-integrated business model for the supply of turnkey offshore wind stations may crumble.

The company has 12 offshore projects at various stages of development with a total potential capacity of 6.12GW, which could use 1,017 turbines. Nearly 2GW of this is permitted, involving 377 turbines, and one project — the 400MW Bard Offshore 1 — is under construction and due for completion at the end of next year.

The company's three Dutch North Sea projects were sold to a Dutch consortium of Typhoon Offshore and HVC in August 2011. At the time, the companies said Bard 5MW turbines will be used for the first two stations with a total 600MW, and construction would begin in August 2012. The two projects, Buitengaats and ZeeEnergie, had won a 600MW allocation in the Dutch Wind op Zee tender in 2010.

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