In the early 2010s, Bard Offshore 1 was rarely out of the trade headlines.
Delays, budget problems, transmission traumas and the bankruptcy of developer Bard Group in 2013 all contributed to an image of a challenged project. And it was a high-profile one too: at 400MW, Germany’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm. It is had up of 80 turbines and is based 100km off the coast of continental Europe.
Yet despite that difficult birth, the project has still proven to be an attractive asset. Macquarie Infrastructure & Real Assets agreed to buy Bard Offshore 1’s owner in August and won European Commission support for the deal last September. How did Bard Offshore 1 overcome its history – and where is it going from here?
The demise of Bard Group was well covered in 2013 so we won’t rehash that.
After the collapse of its developer, Bard Offshore 1 was taken over by Ocean Breeze Energy, which was owed by Italian bank UniCredit’s German arm.
Meanwhile, O&M on the project was led by Germany’s Off-Shore Wind Solutions, which partnered with EDF Renewables subsidiary REETEC and German O&M management company Wind Multiplikator.
It was the work of these firms that opened the way for the recent buyout. We spoke to Henrik Hansen, director at Wind Multiplikator, about how the firm helped to turn the project around, and focus O&M priorities for Bard Offshore 1 in the next five years.
Wind Multiplikator (WM) was set up by former Siemens Wind Power O&M director for CEE and AREVA Wind COO, Michael Munder-Oschimek in 2014 to manage offshore wind projects. Munder-Oschimek has worked from 2015 until 2017 as MD for OWS, supported by more than 14 experienced project managers from Wind Multiplikator.
Since then 2015 it has advised on several other large offshore wind projects. WM has set up new arms of the business, WM QHSE, WM Offshore and WM Engineering to enlarge its tailor-made services to the wind industry.
The first step to improving efficiency at Bard Offshore 1 was reducing the number of companies working on it and putting in place clear project management processes. This helped reduce costs and improve clarity, with the impact that turbine availability jumped from 66% in 2014 to 95% by 2017.
In 2017 Bard Offshore 1 was the most productive wind farm in Germany with 1.5 terawatt hours produced green energy. This success was achieved due to the interaction between Wind Multiplikator team and engineering team of Ocean Breeze Energy, having the root cause analysis in place and defining the right optimisations of implementation.
“When you have clear roles and responsibilities, everyone knows what they’re doing and you also limit the interfaces you have in the project,” says Hansen. The second step was setting targets that got personal buy-in from all parties.
But Hansen adds that there are challenges unique to this scheme. The most obvious is that the project uses Bard turbines that aren’t used elsewhere. This is because the Bard Group was set up in 2003 by Russian-German oligarch Arngolt Bekker, whose goal was to develop both turbines and projects.
Macquarie steps in
He adds that the investment by Macquarie shows that it is committed to continuing to optimise the wind farm over the next five years: “There’s still money to make within Bard although the turbines are challenged,” says Hansen.
This is possible through the project’s original feed-in tariff of between €150/MWh to €190/MWh , which will drop down from 2024 onwards. It will be up to Macquarie and its partners to oversee the shift toward merchant risk.
For WM, its other focus is to use its experience of Bard Offshore 1 elsewhere. WM intends to use all the learning to support the wind industry and to diversify even further. Hansen adds that WM has kept its workforce stable during Covid-19 disruption, which gives it strong experience to draw from.
And for Macquarie, this is an interesting deal as it shows the opportunities to get involved in older projects that require more ‘hands on’ asset management than some of its new schemes.
Even a troubled scheme deserves a second chance.