Covid-19 update: Overcoming construction challenges

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

Vattenfall has encountered heavy snow at Blakliden Fäbodberget every year... construction during a pandemic creates new challenges
Vattenfall has encountered heavy snow at Blakliden Fäbodberget every year... construction during a pandemic creates new challenges

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29 May

Coronavirus creates construction challenges

Vattenfall has resumed construction at its 353MW Blakliden Fäbodberget wind farm after an extended winter break, and has put in place a number of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The developer has banned visitors from the construction site in northern Sweden and is holding all construction meetings and training sessions via computer and video.

All travel on the site is carried out in separate cars, and Vattenfall has built extra toilets and a roofed outdoor area to make it easier to maintain social distance.

It has also increased cleaning in on-site buildings to minimise the spread of infection, explained Kristoffer Arnqvist, who is responsible for the civil engineering contract at the site.

Vattenfall has also had to proactively change suppliers of some components and services when deliveries had been delayed or cancelled due to restrictions in place because of the pandemic.

"The project is holding up well during the pandemic, and this is entirely thanks to the great efforts made every day by those working on the construction,” Arnqvist said.

Construction on the 84-turbine project had started in 2018.

Each winter since then, cold weather and deep snow had forced contractors to down tools for several months.

The developer uses this ‘hibernation’ period to plan for the next construction season - a difficult task this year.

"The Covid-19 outbreak completely changed conditions for the project,” Arnqvist added. “We had to change our plans quickly to ensure that construction could continue, while at the same time we have people's safety and health as our highest priority."

- Craig Richard 

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28 May

US tax credit deadlines extended

US renewable energy developers facing delays amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic have been given an extra year to meet safe harbour requirements and qualify for sunsetting federal tax credits.

Projects that began construction in 2016 or 2017 will still be eligible to secure the US production tax credit (PTC) if they are commissioned within five years, rather than four, under the updated guidance from the US Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The guidance also helps developers aiming to secure ‘safe harbour’ status, so they are eligible to claim the higher PTC rate for 2019, instead of 2020. The ‘safe harbour’ provision allows wind projects to be considered as having begun construction by the end of the year if at least 5% of the project’s total capital cost is incurred.

Developers that paid for property or services between 16 September 2019 and the end of the year, and that expected to receive them within three and a half months, can claim safe harbour for 2019, provided they receive the components or services before 15 October 2020.

The American Council on Renewable Energy’s (Acore’s) CEO Gregory Wetstone described the measures as “a welcome and important step to help the renewable sector and its workers in the face of the delays, disruptions and other challenges associated with Covid-19.”

The PTC is the US’ major support scheme for renewables. It has been reduced annually since 2017 and is due to be phased out at the end of 2020.

- Craig Richard

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27 May

Wind power investments are set to fall 2% in 2020, while total energy spending could see its largest drop in history as the Covid-19 pandemic prompts a plunge in expenditure for every major sector

- Craig Richard

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22 May

Covid-19 weekly updates: 18-22 May

21 May

Large Canadian project pushed back

Oil group Suncor has suspended construction on the first phase of one of Canada’s largest wind farms as part of cost-cutting measures to shield itself from the coronavirus pandemic.

Suncor is developing the 400MW, two-phase Forty Mile wind farm in Alberta, originally targeting a 2021 commissioning date for the first phase, with the second to follow in 2022.

However, it has suspended construction on the 205MW first phase as part of a “revised capital expense budget”, the energy group explained.

It now envisages commercial operations starting at both phases in December 2022, according to an update to the proposed timeline for the project.

However, the developer will consult with the Alberta Electricity System Operator and the Alberta Utilities Commission on how to adjust the project milestone dates, it stated.

Suncor revised its corporate guidance for capital, operating costs and production outlook in March 2020 to reflect the “significant declines in crude oil prices and uncertainty regarding the economic impact of Covid-19”, it explained.

Its revised capital program is now expected to be C€3.9-4.5 billion (US$2.8-3.2 billion) - down from original expectations of C$5.4-6.0 billion.

- Craig Richard

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19 May

‘Uneven recovery after pandemic’: EY

Advisory firm EY expect the global renewables sector to recover after a short-term slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but warns it will be uneven between markets.

In its biannual renewable energy country attractiveness index (Recai), EY suggested that renewables could be seen as a safer investment bet than fossil fuels in the long-term.

Recai chief editor Ben Warren wrote: “The need, after the pandemic, to ensure greater economic and social resilience will work in favour of distributed power sources, such as wind and solar, and the applications offered by battery storage.

“Large companies will be keen to demonstrate that they are responsible corporate citizens, encouraging them to source clean energy.”

For the first time, EY factored in the strength of markets’ healthcare systems, the size of their population that is at-risk based on demographics, and their economic vulnerability as key indicators of a market’s resilience against Covid-19.

- Craig Richard

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15 May

Germany prepares deadline extensions

The Bundestag has passed legislation extending deadlines for renewables developers working on projects during the coronavirus pandemic.

Deadlines for completing subsidised renewable energy systems would be extended by six months, according to the amendments to Germany’s 2017 Renewable Energy Sources Act.

Developers due to commission projects by the end of June will also get a six month extension to comply with technical regulations for power generation plants under the legislation.

Lawmakers have also planned an end to privileges for citizens’ energy companies to participate in onshore wind tenders without permission under the emission control law. In the past this led to many highly speculative bids, which did not result in projects being built, the energy ministry explained.

Germany’s federal council will hold a final consultation on these laws today (15 May).

Energy minister Peter Altmaier said that the amendments should ensure that the pandemic “does not lead to delays in the energy transition”.

- Craig Richard

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14 May

US renewables job losses mount

Unemployment claims from US renewable energy workers tripled from March to April as manufacturing facilities and construction sites were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

By the end of April, 95,574 renewable energy jobs had been lost - 23,739 in March and 71,835 last month - according to an analysis of US Department of Labour data.

These figures are not comprehensive, as many temporarily furloughed or underemployed workers are not included, noted BW Research Partnership, which carried out the analysis.

The market researcher did not provide a breakdown by technology, but counted job losses from the wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and bioenergy/biomass sectors in their statistics.

It added that if trends continue, more than one in five US renewable energy workers will soon be jobless.

- Craig Richard

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13 May

SGRE outlook downgraded over pandemic risks

Financial services company Fitch Ratings has downgraded Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy’s (SGRE’s) outlook from Stable to Negative due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the link between the manufacturer and its parent company growing weaker.

The Negative outlook indicates that SGRE’s credit rating - currently at BBB, suggesting it can repay issued debt - is likely to worsen over a one- or two-year period.

Fitch explained that it expects the manufacturer to face continuing supply chain challenges, delays in project execution and plant shutdowns due to the pandemic.

It added that the pending completion of the Siemens Energy merger - whereby Siemens would transfer its majority stake in the OEM to its gas and power unit - would weaken SGRE’s ties to its parent company.

However, it also noted that SGRE’s service business - boosted by acquisitions from Senvion - provided a stable revenue.

The agency was also optimistic about the medium- to -long-term future of the renewables industry in its latest update on Siemens Gamesa.

While it noted that the coronavirus pandemic would create challenges in the short-term, Fitch expects “increasing concerns about global warming and rising energy demand” to boost demand for renewable energy in the longer-term.

Revised rating

Fitch’s revision follows Standard & Poor’s (S&P) lowering the manufacturer’s long-term outlook from BBB to BBB- earlier this month.

BBB- is the lowest ‘investment grade’ credit rating - indicating SGRE’s ability to repay issued debt - the agency offers.

However, S&P maintained its Positive outlook for Siemens Gamesa, indicating an upgrade is likely.

Meanwhile, Moody’s - the other ‘Big Three’ credit agency - maintained its Baa3 long-term rating and stable outlook for SGRE in early May. This is its lowest rating on its investment grade scale, which is likely to remain unchanged.

- Craig Richard

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12 May

Innogy cautious about Covid-19 impact

Innogy has maintained most of its guidance for the 2020 financial year despite acknowledging uncertainty about the economic and societal impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Its expectations for overall Ebit (€1.4-1.5 billion) and net income (more than €400 million) remain unchanged, but it has lowered its expected Ebit for retail from €250-350million to €200-300 million.

The company stated that it had “performed as expected” in the first quarter, despite the adverse impact of warm weather conditions and Covid-19 reducing energy demand.

But with the continuing economic shutdown and a European recession likely it explained that reduced demand could hit its earnings in 2020.

Innogy added that lower grid throughput volumes could reduce its potential earnings and sales in its retail business, especially from industrial customers, while some customers may fail to settle accounts due to financial hardship.

- Craig Richard

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E.on braces for economic hit

E.on warned of an economic hit “in the high double-digit million euro range for the year as a whole” due to reduced electricity demand amid the economic slowdown.

The network operator has maintained its outlook of adjusted Ebit of €3.9-4.1 billion for 2020 - but warned this expectation does not factor in risks from the pandemic.

Its earnings in Q1 2020 rose by nearly a quarter to €1.46 billion, primarily because of the Innogy takeover, while the Covid-19 pandemic had only a limited impact in the first three months of the year.

However, it warned that it is preparing for its full-year earnings to be hit by declining customer demand as the pandemic and economic slowdown continues.

Announcing its first-quarter results, E.on stated that it plans to invest an additional €500 million in green energy infrastructure to help spur economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.

Its CEO Johannes Teyssen suggested that the €500 million of investments could be made in areas such as e-mobility, and added: “We believe that accelerating the modernisation of environmentally friendly energy infrastructure is a particularly effective way to combine climate protection and local job creation.”

- Craig Richard

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8 May

Covid-19 weekly updates: 4-8 May

Here are the key ways that the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has impacted the wind power industry over the past week

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6 May

An impressive list of industry players, headed up by leading trade bodies, have put forward the wind industry’s case to be a “key building block” of the post-Coronavirus economic recovery

- David Weston

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Disruptions caused by the coronavirus directly led to a negative impact of €56 million to its Ebit in Q2, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) reported

- Craig Richard

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5 May

The Covid-19 crisis made little impact on new installation work on Vestas-supplied projects in Q1 2020, but the challenges caused by the pandemic saw profits slip into losses

- David Weston

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Nordex scraps 2020 guidance

Nordex has withdrawn its guidance for the 2020 financial year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It had expected consolidated sales of €4.2-4.8 billion, Ebitda of €160-240 million with most of the activity anticipated to take place in the second half of the year due to the pandemic slowing business in the first six months of 2020.

In a statement announcing the withdrawal of its guidance for 2020, Nordex explained that with restrictive measures being in place for “an incalculable period of time” there would be continuing uncertainty about the duration and severity of disruptions to its supply chain and its own manufacturing capabilities.

Therefore, it could no longer provide a “realistic and robust estimation of Nordex’s performance”.

The manufacturer joins Vestas, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and TPI Composites in scrapping financial guidance for 2020 due to Covid-19.

The announcement follows a positive first quarter for the German manufacturer.

Nordex’s first quarter sales for 2020 of €964.6 million were more than double the total for Q1 2019 and Ebitda nearly quadrupled to €13.1 million.

Its Ebitda margin rose 0.6 percentage points year on year, reaching 1.4% by the end of Q1 2020.

These results confirmed its expectations for 2020, Nordex stated.

However, the manufacturer added that results in Q2 and beyond were “not yet quantifiable”.

- Craig Richard

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4 May

With the influx of renewables on the grid in recent years and the slump in demand due to Covid-19 health crisis, the price of oil has plummeted.

So is there case to be made to store up oil at these low costs for when times are hard? Or should the global pandemic be the catalyst to leaving oil in the ground?

We take a look at some of the figures...

- David Milborrow

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1 May 

Covid Weekly updates: 27 April - 1 May

Here are the key ways that the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has impacted the wind power industry over the past week

- Staff

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30 April

Renewables are the only energy sources expected to increase their share of global electricity output this year, while demand for coal and gas crashes as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, according to the IEA

- Craig Richard

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29 April

'No significant impact' on Vattenfall

Vattenfall has been largely shielded from the negative impacts of large price declines caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it claimed in its first-quarter financials.

The utility-developer witnessed a “substantial drop” in prices in electricity markets in the first quarter.

First, an “unusually warm winter with high levels of precipitation and strong winds” lowered prices in January, before the pandemic and resulting societal shutdown and poor economic outlook led to declining energy consumption, it explained.

Vattenfall stated that price hedges had largely protected the utility from price declines - but net sales still fell 3% year on year to SEK 48.1 million (€4.4 million).

It added there had been a drop in volume among its industrial customers “for obvious reasons”.

Its overall profit rose 7% to SEK 6.9 billion in Q1, due to higher earnings from operating activities and the sale of nuclear power production rightsin Germany.

Meanwhile underlying operating profit in its wind segment tripled to SEK 2.1 billion (€195 million). The utility cited strong resources and new capacity at its Horns Rev 3 project off Denmark as factors driving the increase in profit from wind.

Vattenfall claimed it has “not seen any significant impact from Covid-19” on its renewables development business.

“On the whole, however, today we have a very uncertain economic situation which requires stricter prioritisation of projects,” the developer stated.

For example, Vattenfall has decided not to participate in the tender for the Hollandse Kust Noord site in Dutch waters. It had secured the rights to build two zero-subsidy Dutch offshore projects in previous tenders.

- Craig Richard 

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The supply chain disruption caused by the global pandemic has dragged GE Renewable Energy down in Q1, as it remains in the red

- David Weston

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Ørsted remains confident of a successful year, after its Q1 was left mostly unaffected by the ongoing global health crisis. However, the Danish utility sees an increased risk to project execution over the medium-term

- David Weston

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28 April

Pandemic "may test renewables' edge on cost"

Onshore wind and solar PV are now the cheapest sources of new electricity generation for at least two-thirds of the global population, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BloombergNEF).

But renewables’ cost-competitiveness may be tested by plunging oil prices amid the coronavirus pandemic, the analysis firm’s chief economist Seb Henbest warned.

The analysts warned that fossil fuels could be shielded from being beaten on price by wind and solar while the pandemic continues.

Henbest said: “One important question is what happens to the costs of finance over the short- and medium-term.

“Another concerns commodity prices: Coal and gas prices have weakened on world markets. If sustained, this could help shield fossil fuel generation for a while from the cost onslaught from renewables.”

- Craig Richard

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27 April

New York tender on hold

The New York Energy Research and Development Authority (Nyserda) has suspended plans to auction up to 2.5GW of offshore wind capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It had been authorised to launch the tender for at least 1GW and up to 2.5GW of new capacity last week.

But the energy regulator has suspended its plans to hold the auction round indefinitely as government agencies prioritise New York’s response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The state has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths in the US, according to statistics company Worldometer.

- Craig Richard

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24 April

Covid-19 weekly updates: 20-24 April

Five key ways that the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has affected the wind power industry over the past week

- Craig Richard

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23 April

TPI drops 2020 expectations

Blade manufacturer TPI Composites has withdrawn its financial guidance for 2020 due to uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It joins turbine manufacturers Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Vestas in scrapping financial expectations due to the virus.

The US blade company had forecast net sales of $1.55-1.65 billion, adjusted Ebitda of $100-125 million and to produce 4,380 sets of three blades for which it can invoice buyers.

Despite reporting that customer demand remains strong, TPI stated that it “cannot currently forecast or quantify with reasonable accuracy the full duration and financial magnitude of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

It had already reduced its manufacturing operations in India, Turkey and Mexico because of the virus.

TPI plans to focus on liquidity to ensure the long-term viability of the company until the pandemic abates, it added. As of 31 March, it had approximately $110 million in cash and $113 million in net debt, the manufacturer stated.

- Craig Richard

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22 April

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) has withdrawn its financial guidance for the 2020 financial year due to uncertainty associated with the Covid-19 pandemic

- Craig Richard

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Up to 150GW of wind and solar capacity across the Asia Pacific (APAC) region could be delayed or cancelled over the next five years if the Covid-19 recession continues into 2021, according to new research

- Craig Richard

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21 April

US oil futures crash

Future prices for the US oil benchmark fell below zero for the first time yesterday (20 April) amid a perfect storm of reduced demand and oversupply.

The contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude - the benchmark for US crude oil prices - fell below minus $40 yesterday, but it has since recovered into positive territory.

Each contract trades for a month, with the May contract expiring today (21 April). But with insufficient storage levels, investors did not want to take delivery of the oil and incur storage costs.

“Midstream players are now paying ‘buyers’ to take oil volumes away as the physical storage limit will be reached,” Louise Dickson, an oil market analyst at Rystad Energy explained.

Rystad warned that it may be cheaper for some operators - with nowhere left to sell or store their oil - to halt production or file for bankruptcy than pay for others to take it from them.

- Craig Richard

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Green Giraffe raises its head

Prop-up old unsustainable energy sources, or invest in new clean energies technologies? 

That’s the binary choice facing policymakers today as oil and gas prices plummet, and economies fall into recession, argued Jérôme Guillet of leading clean-energy financial advisors Green Giraffe.

The immediate effect on renewable development “is not obvious’, he said. 

The choice would be up to “who prevails politically”.

President Trump this afternoon tweeted: “We will never let the great US oil and gas industry down.”

- Craig Richard

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Virus jeopardises Australian projects

Final investment decisions (FIDs) could be delayed for about 900MW of wind power capacity in Australia due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, analysts Rystad Energy warned.

Developers have reached financial close for 210MW of projects so far in 2020, and have either started construction already or planned to do so this year.

Rystad had forecast that 1.1GW of wind farms would reach financial close in 2020. But the analysts have warned that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on project economics will likely lead to the delay or cancellation of financial close for these remaining projects.

It cited the falling Australian dollar - which has plummeted 20% against the US dollar since the start of January - increases in project costs, and difficulties in securing debt as the main reasons for this. 

Rystad added that the pandemic has also created further obstacles to project construction in 2020. Construction was already slow due to a lack of available network capacity, commissioning issues, marginal loss factors and system strength variability.

It stated: “Developers now face a quagmire of infrastructure and economic obstacles.”

Most hardware costs - which account for 75% of a wind farm’s capital expenditure (Capex) - are priced in foreign currency, Rystad explained.

The falling value of the Australian dollar has led to Capex increases - making once viable projects no longer economically possible, with higher PPA prices not enough to rescue some projects, the analysts added.

Developers are also struggling to secure debt to finance projects in the short-term as cash is scarce, and so financiers are unlikely to lend cheaply, Rystad stated.

Most (67%) of the at-risk projects are in New South Wales, while Tilt Renewables and Goldwind are the most exposed developers, the analysts stated.

Rystad also warned that  financial decisions on between 500MW and 1.5GW of solar PV projects might be delayed because of the pandemic.

- Craig Richard 

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20 April

LM Wind Power closes US plant after outbreak

LM Wind Power has closed its manufacturing plant in Grand Forks, North Dakota following an outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) infections.

Health authorities have linked 110 confirmed coronavirus cases to the facility, with one person being hospitalised.

North Dakota health officer Mylynn Tufte has ordered LM Wind Power employees at the site to quarantine for 14 days, starting 16 April.

Meanwhile, the blade manufacturer’s parent company, GE, has closed the plant for two weeks to carry out an extensive disinfection process. It is continuing to pay employees as usual during this period.

The North Dakota governor’s office emphasised that LM Wind Power is considered a critical manufacturing business and is ordinarily not subject to any of the business closures that it has ordered.

Health authorities tested more than 400 workers at the plant last week, and are due to resume testing this week.

- Craig Richard

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Vestas will lay off approximately 400 employees, mostly in Denmark, and end production of a turbine model in an attempt to shield the company during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic

- Craig Richard

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MHI Vestas boss Philippe Kavafyan believes combating climate change should be considered in any stimulus packages agreed following the Covid-19 crisis

- David Weston

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17 April

Covid-19 weekly updates: 13-17 April

Five key ways that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has affected the wind power industry over the past week

- Craig Richard

Spanish industry body's recovery plan

Spain’s wind association (AEE) has proposed 12 measures to support the sector and the country’s economic recovery after the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

It argues that continued development of projects, research and development (R&D), and the manufacturing of wind turbines and components will be key to helping the sector’s recovery.

The AEE’s recommendations include short-term measures such as maintaining the Spanish wind sector’s industrial and technological capabilities, and classifying wind farm operations and maintenance and wind power manufacturing as “essential activities”.

It also suggests longer-term measures such as developing strategies for offshore wind, renewables electrification, and training and educating potential workers for the clean energy transition.

Work resumed at Spanish production facilities and wind farms this week as employees in the manufacturing and construction sectors were allowed to return to work. The country’s wider  lockdown has been extended until 26 April.

- Craig Richard

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16 April

European Energy maintains 2020 guidance

Danish developer European Energy has maintained its financial outlook for 2020 despite the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

It expects Ebitda of €52-58 million and pre-tax profit of €35-39 million for the calendar year. This compares to €44.3 million Ebitda and €37.4 million pre-tax profit in 2019.

The company stated that despite the pandemic it continues to see interest for its energy parks among institutional investors.

European Energy owns 535MW of operational wind power capacity in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Romania, and Sweden according to Windpower Intelligence, the research and data division of Windpower Monthly.

The developer added that due to it making most of its electricity sales through long-term offtake agreements, it does not expect sales to be materially impacted by low prices in Europe.

CEO Knud Erik Andersen said: “We have seen some minor interruptions at construction sites in some markets and most of our employees have been working home for some time now. However, we are confident that we still can reach our financial targets for 2020.

“Our suppliers and partners have continued to deliver products and works on schedule while our own employees have shown remarkable commitment and resilience in this situation.”

The developer will only fill critical positions - such as managerial roles and some specialist functions - during the pandemic, it stated.

It will also limit capital-intensive activities such as starting new projects that require large upfront payments, the developer added. However, it will continue to develop and build projects from its roughly 15GW pipeline as planned, the company added.

- Craig Richard 

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SGRE pledge Red Cross support

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) has committed to matching employee donations to the International Federation of Red Cross’ emergency appeal, as part of the company’s coronavirus (Covid-19) response.

The manufacturer has also pledged to fund the acquisition of €1 million worth of medical equipment - including masks and gloves - for hospitals in communities where it operates, including in Spain (Madrid and Bilbao), France (Le Havre), the UK (Hull), and the United States (Florida, Iowa and Kansas).

It added that it will deliver a “significant reserve” of medical equipment to other countries “as and when there is demand as the crisis continues”.

SGRE has also launched an educational program for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) topics, as well as digitalisation or renewable energies.

Employees have been encouraged to record videos on these topics that will be shared on the company’s website and social media channels.

- Craig Richard

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15 April

Boralex pledges Covid-19 support

Renewables developer Boralex has pledged to donate C$150,000 (US$108,000) to coronavirus (Covid-19) relief efforts in the United States, France and its domestic market, Canada.

It plans to provide the funds to mental health services, food suppliers and organisations that support the elderly.

“Now more than ever, it’s essential to provide support to the organizations that are on the front lines helping those most in need,” said Boralex CEO.

“Boralex is concerned about the well-being of the communities where it operates and wants to offer its support to those organizations working directly with the people and dealing with the problems caused by the spread of COVID-19 every day.”

- Craig Richard

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14 April

European green recovery alliance launched

Nearly 200 European policymakers, CEOs of multinational companies, trade unions and think tanks have signed up to a new alliance calling for clean energy to be at the centre of coronavirus (Covid-19) economic stimulus packages.

Chairman of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee Pascal Canfin launched the European Alliance for a Green Recovery calling for a strong coordinated economic response to the pandemic.

In an open letter signed by 180 European politicians and leaders of corporations, expert groups and non-governmental organisations, the alliance states that the economic shock caused by Covid-19 will likely be tougher than the 2008 financial crash.

“The economic recovery will only come with massive investments to protect and create jobs and to support all the companies, regions and sectors that have suffered from the economy coming to a sudden halt,” the letter reads.

“After the crisis, the time will come to rebuild. This moment of recovery will be an opportunity to rethink our society and develop a new model of prosperity.”

The signatories argue that the post-coronavirus economy should be built around green principles that aid a transition to climate-neutrality, protect biodiversity, rapidly deliver jobs and growth, and improve citizens’ lives.

They further argue that the technologies needed for this - sources of renewable energy, zero-emission transportation, and energy efficient buildings, for example - mostly exist already.

The signatories also argue that the European Green Deal could aid economic recovery in this way, but argues that any such legislation must address society’s needs.

- Craig Richard

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EDPR plans support for relief efforts

EDP Renewables North America (EDPR NA) has pledged $300,000 to help coronavirus (Covid-19) relief efforts in communities neighbouring its wind farms and solar parks in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The relief packages follows its parent company, EDP Renewables (EDPR) pledging to donate €750,000 (US$820,000) to relief efforts, and the wider EDP Group vowing to invest more than €5 million worldwide.

EDPR NA will allocate funds to more than 50 communities where it has a project in operation, under construction or in development.

It anticipates that the bulk of its spending will go to local food banks and organisations that provide economic security for families affected by the virus, as many of the communities in which it operates do not have local healthcare facilities, the developer stated.

Miguel Prado, EDPR NA CEO, explained: “While nobody knows for sure how long COVID-19 will be in the communities where EDPR NA has projects, we do know that the economic impact of the pandemic is already being felt and will likely persist for months as the ramifications of social distancing ripple through our economy.

“As EDPR NA considers ourselves members of these communities, we want to help in this time of need.”

EDPR NA’s parent company EDP Renewables (EDPR) has pledged  €750,000 to relief efforts in 12 countries in which it operates: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the United States. It will make  donations to food banks, buy healthcare equipment, medical devices and rapid testing kits, and help to support online learning, it stated.

Meanwhile, EDPR’s principal shareholder, the EDP Group, plans to invest more than €5 million worldwide to support relief efforts.

- Craig Richard

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Spanish plants reopened as lockdown eases

Turbine and blade manufacturers have reopened their Spanish production facilities following a two-week pause on non-essential work to limit the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

The government had issued a royal decree calling for the lockdown between 30 March and 9 April. Manufacturing, construction and some service workers are now allowed to return to work while the rest of the population must remain at home.

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) has now reopened its technology centre in San Fernando and blade factory in Aoiz.

The manufacturer stated that since the outbreak, it had implemented safety protocols at its production facilities, including: reinforcing cleaning systems, maintaining distance between workers, a reorganisation of the timings for the entry and exit of workers, a separation of shifts, utilisation of personal protection equipment (PPE), and taking workers’ temperature before entering the factory, among others.

Meanwhile, Vestas has reopened its generator factory in Viveiro and at its blade plant in Daimiel.

Its Viveiro plant is at full capacity, while the Daimiel site is at near-full capacity, a spokesman advised.

The manufacturer has also resumed wind farm construction at several sites in Spain, it added.

A Vestas spokesman added: “We continue to implement the extraordinary safety measures we introduced since the outbreak first took hold in Spain, and will continue to uphold our commitment to these safety measures at the very least until the State of Alarm is lifted.”

Spain issued its first State of Alarm decree - a nationwide lockdown - to last two weeks from 14 March, but has now extended it to 26 April.

Blade manufacturer LM Wind Power has also reopended its Spanish plants, restarting operations at Ponferrada and Castellon.

It stated that vulnerable employees did not have to work and would receive a full salary, and that workers’ temperatures were being checked and must observe social distancing at the plants. Workers were already equipped with PPE “beyond what is required by health authorities”, LM Wind Power added.

- Craig Richard

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Lamprell to close sites after Moray East job

Marine engineering group Lamprell plans to close one of its yards after producing jackets for the 950MW Moray East wind farm amid tough market conditions caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

It will close its production facility at Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, later this year, after it has finished producing 48 turbine and substation jackets for the 950MW project being built in the Moray Firth off Scotland’s east coast.

The Dubai-based firm mothballed a fabrication site in Jebel Ali, in January 2020, and now plans to consolidate its operations within one yard at Hamriyah “for the time being”. Both yards are also in the UAE.

Lamprell explained these actions were part of a US$23million cost-saving strategy “in a period of unprecedented global uncertainty”. 

Despite the pandemic, it is continuing fabrication of the jackets for EDPR and Engie’s Moray East, which will feature 100 of MHI Vestas’ V164-9.5MW turbines and is due online in 2022. 

Lamprell added that it expects to deliver the jackets “on time and on budget”.

- Craig Richard

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10 April

Covid-19 weekly updates: 6-10 April

Five key developments from how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the wind industry over the past week

- Craig Richard

---

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

Vestas has suspended its financial guidance for 2020 due to the “poor visibility” caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic

- Craig Richard

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Blade company TPI Composites has reduced its manufacturing operations in India, Turkey, and Mexico because of the Covid-19 pandemic

- Ros Davidson

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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

Covid-19 weekly updates: 30 March-3 April

With the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic dominating headlines, here are five key ways the virus has impacted the wind power industry in the past week

- Craig Richard

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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

Iberdrola CEO Ignacio Galán told shareholders at a virtual AGM that the developer is well-placed to ride through the Covid-19 pandemic, and that it is committed to investing heavily "to contribute to economic activity and prevent people's jobs being lost"

- David Weston

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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

---

 

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

--- 

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 

---

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

Ørsted’s under-construction wind farms are progressing according to plan despite the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. It continues to monitor how the virus will affect its operations

- Craig Richard

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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

Nordex expects increased sales and operating profit in 2020 due to a larger order book, but conceded there is “significant uncertainty” about how the Covid-19 pandemic might affect its business performance

- Craig Richard

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Turbine maker Enercon is taking extensive measures for the best possible protection of employees’ health and to ensure extended continued operations

- Sara Knight

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The Russian wind power sector remains stable, despite a growing threat of a recession in the national economy and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s wind power association (RAWI) claimed

- Eugene Gerden

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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

---

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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