Covid-19 update: Deme to quarantine crews

How the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is impacting the industry's 2020 goals.

Crew members will be quarantined at the ‘hotel ship’ moored in Ostend, Belgium for two weeks to prevent transmission of coronavirus (Covid-19)
Crew members will be quarantined at the ‘hotel ship’ moored in Ostend, Belgium for two weeks to prevent transmission of coronavirus (Covid-19)

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9 April

Deme crews quarantined on ‘hotel ship’

Deme Group has hired a ship to temporarily house crew members due to join dredging and other offshore vessels.

Crew members will be quarantined at the ‘hotel ship’ moored in Ostend, Belgium for two weeks to prevent transmission of coronavirus (Covid-19), Deme explained.

Social contact and activities on board will be strictly regulated to separate crew members of different ships.

Employees returning home from sea will not be quarantined as they would not have been exposed to the virus, Deme explained.

It added that as an end to the coronavirus is “not yet in sight”, it will change crews on its vessels after 17 April to allow employees to return to their families.

A medic will be on board the ‘hotel ship’ to monitor crew members and check their temperatures.

- Craig Richard

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7 April

Financial impact 'still unclear'

The full financial impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) impact on the European wind sector is still not clear, industry body WindEurope warned.

In its latest Financing and Investment Trends report, WindEurope noted that in normal circumstances, many conditions are in place for a positive investment outlook: low interest rates and a large number of lenders becoming increasingly comfortable investing in wind power.

However, it warned that the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic will inevitably create short-term uncertainty and prompt lenders to divert their attention to managing liquidity rather than lending capital for wind farm financing.

WindEurope added that the depth of the economic fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic will determine how quickly markets return to normality.

CEO Giles Dickson added: “We have yet to see the scale of Covid-19’s impact on wind energy investments.”

6 April

Indian wind forecast cut by 11%

Supply and labour disruptions caused by India’s nationwide lockdown could mean 400MW of wind projects due for completion this year are delayed into 2021, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Before the outbreak of the virus, the analysts had predicted 3.5GW of projects being commissioned this year, but they have now revised their forecast down 11.4% to 3.1GW.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi called for a three-week nationwide lockdown starting on 25 March.

Wood Mackenzie’s senior analyst Rishab Shrestha warned there could be lingering supply and logistics bottlenecks continuing into the second half of the year.

The analysts warned that there was a high correlation of Indian states with the highest coronavirus infection rates and areas favourable to wind and solar development.

For example, Gujarat’s 1.4GW of new wind farms installed last year, accounted for 58% of India’s new additions in 2019. It is also in one of the top ten worst hit states for Covid-19 cases.

Wood Mackenzie also lowered its forecast for solar PV additions by 2.9GW (down 24.8%), again citing supply  and labour disruptions.

It warned that if the pandemic continues to escalate and the lockdown is extended, utilities and renewables developers could struggle financially.

- Craig Richard

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Construction deadlines extended in Austria

Austria has extended the construction period for wind farms by six months so that subsidy contracts do not expire amid delays caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The extension applies to projects with a construction deadline between 16 March 2020 and 16 March 2021.

The government introduced the amendments to its Green Energy Law through its new Coronavirus Law, which was passed late last week.

Austria’s wind power association, IG Windkraft, welcomed the amendment. Its managing director Stefan Moidl said: “A stronger energy policy is an economic engine for the regional economy and jobs, and is therefore a response to the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis.”

IG Windkraft that some Austrian production facilities have been shut down amid the pandemic.

It added that even with wind turbine components being shipped from Asia, there is likely to be delays to project construction.

- Craig Richard

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3 April

Ørsted postpones Capital Markets Day

Ørsted has postponed its Capital Markets Day planned for 10 June due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

It has not yet rescheduled the event, but aims to hold it “towards the end of the year”, the developer stated.

- Craig Richard

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2 April

South Africa proposes curtailment

The South African wind industry is considering legal advice over state-owned utility Eskom’s proposal to curtail wind power output during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The utility claimed the pandemic was a force majeure event that has reduced power demand.

Further, Eskom said wind power operators are able to curtail at short notice and in precise increments.

If wind power output is curtailed, operators will be “afforded one day of relief for every day, or part thereof, of lost production”, the utility added. It claimed that wind power operators should not suffer financially.

Its proposal comes less than a week after the South African government classified electricity production, supply and maintenance as ‘essential services’.

The South African Wind Energy Association (Sawea) claimed the operators of the country’s 1.98GW wind power fleet were not warned of the plan.

It is now seeking legal counsel on whether the reduced electricity demand as a result of the pandemic constitutes force majeure, it stated.

The industry body argued the reduced demand could be deemed as a normal system event, and is therefore not force majeure.

“The industry will be approaching Eskom with a view to finding a constructive resolution that does not prejudice the country nor the power producers,” Sawea CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli said.

- Craig Richard

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1 April

COP26 postponed to 2021

The COP26 climate change conference due to take place in Scotland at the end of 2020 has been postponed until 2021, the UK government confirmed, as a result of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The UNFCC made the decision in partnership with UK and Italian representatives. 

It will now take place in 2021 but will remain in Glasgow, Scotland. Exact dates are yet to be determined. 

"Covid-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term," said UN climate change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa.

- David Weston

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SGRE re-opens UK blade plant despite lockdown

Production has resumed at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy’s (SGRE’s) UK blade factory, amid a three-week nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

The manufacturer had halted production to comply with the UK’s lockdown, running from 23 March-12 April, but resumed operations at the plant in Hull, north-east England today (1 April).

It added that it has put in place “stringent measures” to protect staff, including carrying out thermal imaging checks for all entrants to the site and providing workers with personal protective equipment (PPE).

But a trade union is unhappy about its members’ pay.

Unite, which represents about 380 production staff at the Hull plant, stated that workers had been asked to either take holiday, work the missed hours in the future, or go unpaid for the week.

The union’s regional coordinating officer Simon Coop added: “Our members returning to the site today are rightly anxious whether the new health and safety measures are adequate.

“We want to discuss with the company whether the production of blades is an essential industry at this time. If it’s not, we would want our members furloughed on full-pay.”

While bars, restaurants, and many other businesses have been closed amid the UK’s lockdown, manufacturing is exempt from the measures — provided employers follow public health guidance on safe working practices.

The UK government has vowed to pay furloughed workers — those given a leave of absence during the lockdown — up to 80% of their monthly wages. However, it has no such provision for those still expected to work — including those at SGRE's Hull plant.

An SGRE spokeswoman said: “Our employees in Hull have not been financially impacted by this production pause, and are able to work their hours back over several months.

“In addition, we have offered additional flexibility in work arrangements, to support employees’ domestic circumstances.”

- Craig Richard

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31 March

Vattenfall pulls out of Dutch tender

Vattenfall will not participate in the tender for the 700MW Hollandse Kust Noord site in Dutch waters, citing uncertainty about the coronavirus (Covid-19).

It explained it will instead consolidate its efforts on electricity production and delivering current projects amid the pandemic.

The Netherlands is due to offer the 700MW Hollandse Kust Noord site in a round opening on 2 April and running until the end of the month.

Vattenfall stated: “In light of the current Covid-19 situation, we have carefully evaluated our risk-reward balance against the remainder of our strong pipeline and the rest of our ongoing projects.

“This evaluation has led to the decision that we will not at this moment participate in the tender for Hollandse Kust Noord.

“We are still fully committed to our growth ambition in Europe and our role in the Dutch energy transition, for example, ensuring the safe and timely delivery of Hollandse Kust Zuid.”

Vattenfall had secured the rights to build two zero-subsidy Dutch offshore projects — Hollandse Kust Zuid I & II and III & IV — in previous tenders.

Windpower Monthly has contacted previous participants in the Netherlands’ offshore wind tenders for comment. Engie, Ørsted and Shell all declined to comment on whether or not they were participating in the latest round.

- Craig Richard

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Pandemic to push back PNE’s projects

The CEO of German developer PNE believes the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic will push back planned projects by one year.

Markus Lesser said project sales and executions planned for 2020 could instead be carried out in 2021 due to the virus’ spread.

The Morgan Stanley-backed developer had already taken the impacts of the coronavirus into account when setting its 2020 Ebitda guidance of €15-20 million.

“At this point in time, we assume there should be no significant impact on our business in the medium to long term,” Lesser added.

- Craig Richard

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Brazil delays power tenders

Brazil’s energy regulator has indefinitely postponed power auctions scheduled to be held in 2020, due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The country had planned to hold six tenders this year, for both new and existing power plants.

Energy regulator Aneel has now put these plans on hold but not cancelled them outright, adding that it expects the “resumption of economic activity, once the public health situation is normalised”.

Brazil was due to hold two rounds in April and September pitting new wind developments against hydroelectric, solar PV and biomass projects, as part of the biannual tenders unveiled in March 2019.

The country also planned to contract electricity from existing power plants across two rounds in December 2020, and from new and existing facilities simultaneously in two tenders scheduled for April.

- Craig Richard

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30 March

Spanish lockdown halts manufacturing

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) and Vestas have halted production at Spanish production facilities to comply with a government order banning all non-essential activities to prevent transmission of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

The government issued the ban — covering 30 March to 9 April, inclusive — on Sunday (29 March).

SGRE, which had already downed tools at two of its Spanish factories, has complied by closing its remaining production plants in the country.

However, it will maintain “essential activities” at under-construction wind farms to prevent damage to installations and reduce the risk of accidents. It will also continue maintenance activities, including the supply and repair of projects’ components, the company explained.

The manufacturer will continue to pay affected employees their full salary, it added.

Meanwhile, Vestas has halted most activities at its generators factory in Viveiro and blades plant in San Daimiel.

However, it is continuing operations that “either cannot stop or are needed to run to prepare the factories for the end of the lockdown”, it stated.

The manufacturer added that all continuing operations were being performed “under the extraordinary safety measures that were implemented since the beginning of the crisis in all sites to minimize the risk of contagion within our employees”.

Vestas had closed its San Daimiel facilities after workers staged a sit-in to protest what they claimed were inadequate safeguards against the virus. 

It then reopened the plant after health authorities approved measures in place to combat the virus.

Windpower Monthly has contacted other turbine manufacturers with a Spanish footprint for comment.

- Craig Richard 

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Lower market prices’ ‘limited impact on Northland Power’

Northland Power has reaffirmed its financial guidance for 2020 amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but has warned continuing reduced market prices could hinder revenue streams from its offshore wind farms.

Operation of the developer’s projects, including 1,184MW of offshore wind, are not affected by the pandemic and are generating power as normal.

However, even though its projects are largely shielded by long-term offtake agreements with “creditworthy entities”, there is still some “limited exposure” to market price, the developer stated.

It added: “If market prices persist lower than forecast prices for an extended period, this could impact revenues. To date, the impacts of lower-than-forecast market pricing have been offset by higher-than-expected production.”

The Candian developer maintained its financial guidance for 2020, including adjusted Ebitda of C$1.1-1.2 billion (US$785-855 million) and free cash flow of C$1.70-2.05/share.

- Craig Richard

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27 March

US stimulus package 'disappoints'

Relief for clean energy projects and their developers was absent from a $2 trillion package to stimulate the US economy amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other clean energy trade bodies had called for the extension of tax credits for renewable energy and storage projects, citing disruption to project schedules and a sudden reduction of available tax equity to finance energy projects.

But such measures were absent from the $2 trillion Covid-19 Phase Three Stimulus Bill passed by the House of Representatives on Friday (27 March). President Trump has now signed off on the aid package.

AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said: “While we’re disappointed clean energy sector relief did not make it into the phase three stimulus package, we will continue working with Congress and other renewable energy leaders to find solutions to the specific challenges Covid-19 is causing our members.”

He claimed that adjusting the existing tax credits scheme to extend construction and safe harbour deadlines would ensure projects can qualify for federal support, “without costing the federal government any additional money”.

The ‘safe harbour’ provision allows wind projects to be considered as having begun construction by the end of the year if a minimum of 5% of the project’s total capital cost is incurred.

- Craig Richard 

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SGRE pauses production amid Indian and UK lockdowns

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) has suspended operations in India and the UK as both countries enforce a lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

UK prime minister Boris Johnson called for a three-week nationwide lockdown — giving police powers to fine citizens leaving home unnecessarily — on Monday (23 March), while Indian premier Narendra Modi issued a similar decree the following day.

SGRE told Windpower Monthly it is complying with both decrees, and so has paused production at its UK and Indian facilities.

These include its blade factory in Hull (north-east England), as well as its blade factories in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat (south-east and west India), nacelle plant in Tamil Nadu (south India) and operations and maintenance centre, also in Tamil Nadu.

Two SGRE plants in Spain (San Fernando and Aoiz) remain closed.

Its Chinese factories began ramping up to full output in mid-February, the manufacturer stated.

- Craig Richard

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Auctions adapted

As governments worldwide switching to a wartime footing to implement emergency measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, state-run auctions in Europe have been altered to help both authorities and bidders.

The UK extended early phases of its tender for rights to sites capable of supporting 7GW of offshore wind to give participants more time and flexibility amid the pandemic.

Germany will allow successful bidders in past tenders to apply for extensions to implementation deadlines. And while bidders in onshore wind auctions this year will be informed of whether or  not they were successful, results will not be made public, as this starts the clock for completion of these projects.

The Netherlands will auction the 700MW Hollandse Kust Noord offshore site in April as planned.

Greece’s 500MW joint solar-wind tender will also go ahead as planned in April, but deadlines for licensing and construction will be extended by at least two months.

Poland’s wind energy association (PSEW) has asked for the statutory deadlines to supply first power from projects awarded in the country’s tenders in 2018 and 2019 to be postponed by at least one year.

Currently, failure to comply with previously declared deadlines is punishable by financial penalties in addition to operators waiting longer for project revenue.

Wind-solar auctions are due to be carried out in June and December 2020, but dates and capacity volumes have not yet been confirmed.

Meanwhile, France has adjusted its timetable for auctioning 750MW of onshore wind capacity. Developers were initially due to submit bids for the full allocation on 1 July.

They will now compete for 250MW in July, before bidding for the 500MW remainder in November.

- Craig Richard

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Work continues in Europe

The vast majority of Europe’s wind power manufacturing sites remain open amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, according to industry body WindEurope.

Activity continues in 96% of the wind manufacturing sites across the continent, with plant closures concentrated in Spain and Italy — the two European countries with the most confirmed Covid-19 cases.

However, CEO Giles Dickson noted that border closures in place to restrict the spread of the virus would also limit manufacturing capabilities.

“The full European supply chain is affected by restrictions to the free movement of goods and workers and uncertainty on energy policy and the broader economy,” he added.

Vestas, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) and GE blade manufacturer LM Wind Power had all closed production sites in Spain to protect workers from Covid-19.

Vestas reopened its blade factory in San Daimiel after health authorities approved measures in place there, and LM Wind Power resumed production at two Spanish sites following an extended Easter holiday.

Meanwhile, SGRE had closed its technology centre in Madrid and blade plant in Navarre after a member of staff tested positive for the virus. The plants remain closed.

- Craig Richard

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25 March

Developer hits pause amid New Zealand lockdown

Mercury has halted construction work of its 222MW Turitea wind farm in New Zealand, as the country goes into lockdown amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The 119MW first phase was due to become operational this summer, with the 103MW second phase following in 2021.

New Zealand halted all non-essential construction work amid a month-long nationwide lockdown during the pandemic.

Mercury stated that it had downed tools immediately following the announcement, and would monitor the country’s Covid-19 response to determine when it could resume construction.

- Craig Richard

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24 March

Pandemic ‘disrupting US supply chain’

Wind and solar developments will be delayed in North America because the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is disrupting the supply chain, panellists in a Norton Rose Fulbright webinar agreed.

Miguel Prado, CEO of EDP Renewables North America, said his company is starting to get ‘force majeure’ notices from suppliers — a legal warning that unforeseeable circumstances will prevent the party from fulfilling a contract.

Prado, whose company has more than 1GW in construction or pre-construction, said some wind projects expected to be commissioned in 2020 will now be delayed to 2021, causing a hit to his company’s revenue.

Paul Gaynor, CEO of Longroad Energy, noted a slow-down in permitting and requests for grid interconnection because the people his company needs to contact are working remotely.

Engineering, procurement and construction contractors are also starting to warn clients they may not be able to get the people to fulfil a job, said Jim Torgerson, CEO of Avangrid.

Meanwhile, requests for proposals may get delayed so much that there will be a rush of them in the autumn, predicted Guy Vanderhaegen, CEO of solar developer Origis Energy.

On the finance side, the lender market has become more uncertain because of the pandemic, with lenders starting to back off primarily because they are unsure of pricing, said Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy.

He called for a two-year extension of the Production and Investment Tax Credits and direct relief on tax equity requirements.

Meanwhile, Gaynor called for flexibility on the need to take delivery within 105 days of ‘safe harbour’ equipment bought at the end of 2019.

The ‘safe harbour’ provision allows wind projects to be considered as having begun construction by the end of the year if a minimum of 5% of the project’s total capital cost is incurred.

- Ros Davidson

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Global forecasts downgraded

Wood Mackenzie has downgraded its forecast for 2020 installations due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

It now predicts 73GW will be installed this year — a 5GW decline from previous projections before the virus’ spread.

China and the US, which were forecast to deliver record volumes of new capacity, will take the brunt of the impact on global installations.

In Europe, Spain, Italy and France could be hit harder on a percentage basis due to lockdown measures inhibiting worker mobility, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Factory closures, like those at Siemens Gamesa, will likely result in turbine installation delays both domestically and possibly for the US.

Border closures between European countries could also impact aggressive build schedules, especially for markets like Norway, where foreign project teams are unable to enter.

Australia has a substantial pipeline of projects for completion in 2020-2021, most with 3.6-4.2MW rated turbines imported from Europe. Supply disruptions from lockdowns in Spain and Germany could jeopardise build schedules.  

Turbine production and wind farm construction in China are recovering with local governments now encouraging local facilities to return to work as the outbreak is believed to be under control.

Though supply disruptions are emerging in western Europe, China’s supply of critical components such as wind turbine blades to the US outweighs that of Spain by two to one.

India has been used as the main alternative to Chinese wind energy component production.

An interruption in supply could restrict installations both domestically and abroad in western markets, according to Wood Mackenzie.

- Sara Verbruggen

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23 March

Germany takes pragmatic approach on auctions

Onshore wind auctions will continue to take place as planned despite the Coronavirus crisis, and bidders will be informed if they have been successful or not, said Germany's energy agency Bundesnetzagentur (BNA).

But the results will not be published online until the epidemic has calmed down. This is because the publication of the results triggers the clock for the completion of these projects. Developers are then required to pay a security deposit for the project and will be at risk of incurring penalties for any delay.

For the time being, only the total auction volume and the highest and lowest bids will be made public, the BNA said. Further, successful developers at previously completed auctions can apply for extensions to implementation deadlines without bureaucratic hurdles, it added.

- Sara Knight

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Remote operation shields Encavis in crisis

European independent power producer Encavis does not expect Covid-19 to affect its renewable energy operating business. 

Operation of its onshore wind farms and ground-mounted solar arrays is remote controlled meaning there is no risk to business as usual, it explained

However, it has indefinitely postponed its annual general meeting, which had been scheduled for mid-May, to protect the health of shareholders and employees.

Encavis owns 413MW of wind farms in Germany, France, Austra, Italy and Denmark.

- Sara Knight

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Vestas resumes blade production

Danish manufacturer Vestas has reopened its blade factory in San Daimiel, Spain, after health authorities approved measures in place to combat the coronavirus (Covid-19).

The plant had been reduced to minimum service after workers staged a sit-in on 15 March, protesting against what they claimed were inadequate safeguards against the virus.

Vestas told Windpower Monthly it would continue to monitor the plant, and that it has emergency response plans in place in the event of a Covid-19 case.

- Craig Richard

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ABO Wind "well-positioned" amid outbreak

German developer ABO Wind said it is still too early to say what impact Covid-19 is having on the industry, but believes it is in a position to deal with the disruption. 

“We have to wait and see what impact Corona will have,” a spokesman for ABO Wind told Windpower Monthly.

“At the moment it‘s too early to judge whether projects have to be postponed, [if] turbine supply problems will show up, or the already slow project permitting process will be slowed further as permitting authorities are also affected by Coronavirus mitigation measures. 

“We are relatively well-positioned, and can react flexibly despite measures like home working,“ he noted, adding, “although stopping Corona has top priority, it is important not to let the energy transition slide out of view, we still have to push ahead on that front.“

- Sara Knight

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Danish climate bill on hold

Denmark's negotiations for a new climate bill have been postponed indefinitely.

The bill would legislate a 70% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030.

"Right now we use almost every effort to get through coronavirus outbreak. This does not mean that there is no willingness to look at equalization and climate. Those we will get to in the time ahead," said finance minister Nicolai Wammen.

- David Weston

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20 March

Spanish dispatch: falling prices and logistical challenges

Plummeting electricity demand in Spain might send spot market prices below the floor price established in the country’s power auctions in 2016 and 2017, meaning operators would receive the lowest possible price.

The average daily pool price has fallen to €27/MWh amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, down from a daily average of just below €48/MWh throughout 2019. Spot prices have dropped as far as €14/MWh at times during the week.

Prices are expected to drop considerably lower, a veteran technical adviser to the wind sector told Windpower Monthly.   

If this happens, operators of 2.3GW of online capacity will receive top-ups so that they are paid the €22-28/MWh floor prices set at auctions in 2016 and 2017.

It will be up to consumers to make the difference on their electricity bills. Yet it is already predicted that many consumers will be unable to pay their March utility bills anyway due to falling income during the state of alarm.

State of alarm

Meanwhile, reports are rife regarding requests to self-isolate from wind plant operating staff.

However, Spain’s state of alarm decree — in place for two weeks from 15 March, though widely expected to be extended — establishes that electricity supply is a vital public service, and so workers are obliged to remain active. Indeed, wind was Spain’s second biggest generator of electricity in 2019.

So far there has been no ostensible impact on overall wind plant performance nationwide.

Spain’s wind association (AEE) issued a statement claiming wind production over the first 20 days of March (4,261GWh) is up on the same period last year — despite the pandemic. However, they do expect delays in logistics and supplies for operations and maintenance (O&M) in the coming weeks.  

AEE also expects the connection of new projects, now in the final stages of construction, to be delayed due to overloaded departmental work at regional administration level. This will affect around 1GW of projects.

Maintenance

The renewables O&M association, AEMER, is concerned about the ban on more than one occupant in any vehicle. Spain’s Guardia Civil — a military force charged with police duties — is carrying out road checks, fining drivers and delaying activity. Work is also slowed due to the limit of one person per lift journey in wind turbine towers. 

This all means a shifting operator focus on corrective maintenance with a reduced focus on preventative maintenance. 

In such cases, operators need to ensure they are complying with their insurers’ policies and not cutting any dangerous corners leaving them uninsured, says an AEMER spokesperson.

- Mike McGovern 

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'Limited impact' in North America

The impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) on the North American wind sector will be “limited” because the market had already been shaken up by the recent US-China trade war, according to a wind power analyst.

Head of global wind research at Wood Mackenzie Dan Shreve said the trade war had already forced major OEMs such as Vestas, GE and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy to diversify their supply chains.

The analysis firm had already forecast many projects due to be commissioned in 2020 to be pushed back to 2021, he said on a podcast hosted by law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

However, Wood Mackenzie does not expect the Covid-19 pandemic to cause additional “major shuffling” of projects, Shreve added.

- Ros Davidson

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Call for support extension

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other trade bodies have co-signed a letter calling on US House and Senate leaders to extend tax credits for renewable energy and energy storage projects.

The signatories have requested extensions to start construction and safe harbour deadlines to ensure projects can qualify for renewable tax credits, despite delays from supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The ‘safe harbour’ provision allows wind projects to be considered as having begun construction by the end of the year if a minimum of 5% of the project’s total capital cost is incurred.

They would, therefore, be eligible to claim the US’ main support scheme, the production tax credit (PTC).

They have also asked that developers of generation and storage projects to receive direct pay equal to the value of the tax credits.

The trade bodies cited disruptions to project schedules and a sudden reduction in the availability of tax equity needed to finance energy projects.

In their joint letter, AWEA, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Energy Storage Association (ESA), National Hydropower Association (NHA), Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) stated: “The growth of the clean energy sector, one of the nation’s most important economic drivers, is placed at risk by a range of Covid-19 related impacts.”

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UK extends 7GW leasing round

UK seabed landlord the Crown Estate has revised the timetable for awarding rights to sites capable of supporting 7GW of offshore wind in its fourth leasing round, in light of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

It plans to open the invitation-to-tender (ITT) stage in the week commencing 30 September

This stage was originally planned to last seven weeks, but will now be extended to ten weeks to allow bidders time to respond.

However, assessment of this stage will still last 11 weeks, as set out in the original schedule.

The Crown Estate envisages the second ITT stage starting in the second half of September 2020, followed by a bidding process including daily rounds beginning in October.

A spokesperson the Crown Estate added: “We are responding to the fast-changing Covid-19 situation in the context of the Round 4 leasing programme, mindful of both the health and wellbeing of everyone involved and the need to ensure all bidders are treated fairly.

“Our considered adjustments to some timings will help to allow additional time and flexibility for bidders, while ensuring minimal disruption to the overall programme timeline.”

- Craig Richard

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19 March

Axed trade events 'hinder transactions'

Two industry lobby groups have cancelled or postponed meetings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) has cancelled its Spring Forum, which was due to be held in Montreal, Quebec on 28 April. 

It cited “evolving public and travel advisories about non-essential travel and public gatherings related to Covid-19”.

On the other side of the Atlantic, RenewableUK has postponed its Global Offshore Wind 2020 event, which was due to be held 16-17 June in Manchester, England. It will now be held 27-28 October.

Last week, analysts at BloombergNEF warned that cancelled trade events and company travel bans are threatening to weaken transaction volumes in the first half of the year.

- Craig Richard

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18 March

Vestas stands still with sit-in in Spain

Vestas has been forced into temporarily reducing its San Daimiel blade facility in Spain to minimum service for four days.

A protest on Saturday 15 March by the 1,300-strong workforce – against what they view as inadequate safety measures amid the Coronavirus contagion – turned into a sit-in, bringing the plant to a standstill.

The workers’ committee is concerned that staff members with mild flu-like symptoms may be spreading the virus unwittingly.

Management agreed to meet with the workers’ committee on Wednesday 18 March to discuss measures to resume production.

- Mike McGovern

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SGRE closes technology centre

Meanwhile, Siemens Gamesa closed its San Fernando de Henares technology centre in Madrid due to a member of staff testing positive for Covid-19.

The centre manufactures power electronics and is a testbed for such technology, with a capacity of up to 10MW, including energy storage units.

The manufacturer has also temporarily closed its blade plant in Navarre following a worker testing positive for the virus.

It will carry out an “immediate, complete technical cleaning” of the building, it added.

The employee is under observation.

The Spanish wind energy association, AEE, says it has not been able to conclude an impact assessment related to the disease yet. There have been no confirmed cases among its own staff.

- Mike McGovern

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LM Wind Power shuts doors in Spain

Blade manufacturer LM Wind Power has closed its two Spanish production facilities due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

A spokeswoman advised this was a mutual decision with workers’ union to move up the already planned Easter holiday.

- Craig Richard

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17 March

Equinor assembles taskforce

Equinor's head of renewables Pål Eitrheim is leading a taskforce handling the implications of the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior vice president Jens Økland will stand in for Eitrheim as head of its New Energy Solutions division.

- Craig Richard

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Supply chain analysis

The wind power industry’s supply chains closer to market in Europe and North America will be impacted as production and logistics are curtailed, analysts at Wood Mackenzie believe.

They add that developers in the US are particularly under pressure as they aim to start construction by the end of the year to qualify for the production tax credit.

However, restrictions in many US wind regions remain limited compared to Europe at the current moment.

- Craig Richard

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For more coverage, see Windpower Monthly’s recent articles on the outbreak:

Coronavirus creating ‘considerable downside risk’

'Coronavirus exposes our reliance on China'

Production 'returning to normal' amid coronavirus outbreak

Insurance little help for coronavirus-hit wind sector

Coronavirus 'jeopardises 2020 Chinese installations'

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