Analysis: Areva plans Bremerhaven expansion

FRANCE: Areva plans to invest EUR 70 million in research and development in Bremerhaven, an Areva Wind spokeswoman told Windpower Monthly at the end of May. "Areva's industrial footprint is to stay close to the wind parks, which is why Bremerhaven is to remain a key location," she said.

The expenditure will be equivalent to about 6% of revenue flowing to Areva if it gets the go-ahead, expected within the coming months, for the supply of around 160 5MW offshore turbines for German projects.

At around EUR 1.3 million per megawatt, as calculated in a recent offshore costs study by Prognos and Fichtner, this translates into more than EUR 1 billion of business for the turbines alone, not including equipment transportation, installation, commissioning and maintenance. Areva looks set to carry out all these tasks for at least one project, in view of Iberdrola's announcement on Areva Wind as chosen preferred turbine supplier for the 80 turbine Wikinger project in the Baltic Sea back in December 2012.


Local concern over the future of the Bremerhaven plant has grown in recent months. Areva is having to scale down production there due to a lack of follow-up orders after its deliveries of 40 turbines to the Borkum West 2 first phase and 80 units to the Global Tech 1 project. Through to late autumn this year, up to 120 employees will move step by step into "short-time working", leading to fears that the plant will be closed altogether.

But Areva commercial and technical teams are heavily involved in work towards financial close for German offshore wind projects, "and we expect positive feedback soon," the spokeswoman said. Preparations for new production activities at Bremerhaven can begin once incoming orders are confirmed. Production would then pick up again in the second half of 2015, although "this depends significantly on further progress with our customers' projects," she stressed.

The upcoming orders providing the critical mass to continue production at Bremerhaven could include the 80 turbine MEG 1 North Sea project developed by insolvent wind developer Windreich, for which financial close is now expected in the summer, and Spanish energy company Iberdrola's Wikinger in Germany.

Iberdrola owns 19.7% of turbine builder Gamesa, which is poised to enter a 50/50 offshore wind joint venture with Areva. Assuming the joint venture is formed, the new company would continue to market Areva's 5MW turbine, but in the short term also develop a new generation of 5MW wind turbines "that includes the improvements and advantages of Gamesa's multi-megawatt technology". Gamesa is currently testing a 5MW offshore prototype using the new technology which, it says, has had 1.3 million hours of development and $300,000 spent on validation. This work could be continued at Bremerhaven.

French base

Fears over Bremerhaven's future, and that production might be switched to France, had been fanned by Areva's plans for research and development activities in Rouen to start this year — where citizens have protested against Areva plans for a new nuclear plant — and to begin construction from 2018 of 125 Aereva 8MW wind turbines destined for the 500MW Treport and 500MW Isles of Yeu and Norimoutier project in Le Havre, where Areva has a major nuclear radioactive waste processing plant. These plans were announced by Areva on 7 May.

The 100 Areva 5MW turbines to supply Iberdrola's Saint-Brieuc project in French waters will also be assembled at the French Le Havre works, said Iberdrola.

These three projects have created the critical mass for Areva's French manufacturing base. The company noted in August 2013 that the Treport and Yea-Norimoutier wind farms plus the Saint Brieuc project — totalling 225 turbines with 1.5GW and a rough value of EUR 2 billion — "will allow the group to materialise its industrial project" at Le Havre in France.

The French state allocates offshore wind projects in a tendering process. Areva is 87% owned by the French public sector. With this potential synergy at work, WPD Offshore's legal action challenging the results of the French tender for the Noirmoutier-Yeu project, as it revealed in May, looks unlikely to dent Areva's industry plans for Le Havre.