Shipbuilder STX breaks into offshore wind market

Substation deal and jacket foundation certification signal firm's offshore ambition

STX France, part of the international shipbuilding group, has broken into the offshore wind market with a contract to supply a substation to a project in northern Europe for an unnamed client, Windpower Offshore has learned.

This follows certification for the company's new jacket foundation and a recent cooperation agreement with Areva to make joint foundation/turbine offers to European projects. For the last three years, STX France has been keen to diversify into the offshore wind sector to compensate for a decline in orders at its shipyards.

The contract for the substation covers the jacket foundation, piles and the electrical module, including an accommodation block. STX France says construction will start early 2013 for delivery the following year.

The substation design is the result of the Wattéole research project, launched in 2011 in collaboration with technology research institute Jules Verne, in Nantes. It aimed to design a lighter structure, facilitate installation at sea, ensure safety and reduce maintenance costs.

STX France's new jacket foundation, the AG4, came out of a parallel research project known as Fondeol. The innovative design, which received certification last week from DNV, costs 10-15% less than its rivals, the company claims.

This was achieved by calling on STX's technical and industrial expertise, which made it possible to optimise industrialisation of the jacket "by integrating in the design phase material sourcing with fabrication and logistic considerations", according to Frédéric Grizaud, general manager of STX France Solutions.

The jacket, made of high-tensile steel, rises 56 meters from the sea bed, weighs 600 tonnes and can withstand extreme winds and waves up to 14 meters, the company says. It is designed to support a 6MW turbine, such as Alstom's new Haliade 150. STX says the transition piece is unusually light, thanks to an innovative design transmitting the force of the wind into the foundation legs.

STX is aiming at both the French and export markets. Earlier this year, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Ailes Marines, a consortium comprising Iberdrola and Eole-RES, to supply jacket foundations to the 500MW St-Brieuc project awarded in the first offshore tender. If the deal is confirmed, STX will provide foundations for the 100 Areva turbines.

The consortium led by EDF Energies Nouvelles in partnership with Alstom, which was awarded three projects totalling nearly 1.5GW in the tender, has already decided it will use monopiles at Courseulles-sur-Mer and Saint Nazaire, and gravity-base foundations at Fécamp. However, the consortium expects to call on STX for the foundations for the substations.


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