Offshore wind farms.  Lots of question marks in the Baltic Sea

The external sector is developing intensively. This is a major challenge for the supply chain, for specialized companies, ships, logistics, and the production of large components. The question is whether it is possible to connect everything in the supposed time in the implementation of such large projects. If these services or components are not available, our projects may suffer – said Monica Moravica, President of PGE Baltica, during the conference “Energy Security – Pillars and a Development Perspective” held in Rzeszow.

Among the challenges, she also mentioned the huge investments that await Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne. The launch of such a large capacity in the Baltic Sea means the need to expand the country’s transport network. It is not that we are afraid of something, but it is a zero element. If the infrastructure had not been built, she said, we would not have been able to extract energy from the farms.

Administrative procedures that extend over time are also a difficult stage. This is something investors cannot control and can affect the schedule. It is a difficult process, because we are dealing with the first projects to build marine windmills. Therefore, it means a huge challenge for all parties, including management.

Maciej Stryjecki of Polenergia also points out logistical bottlenecks. – There has been a discussion about the ports for months. We want the participation of Polish companies to be as high as possible. We have expressed this in our supply chain plan. He stressed that, however, it is necessary to equip the ports from the logistical side.

He emphasized that several projects would be implemented simultaneously. Even when the port of Gdynia is being built, it may not be enough for a few investors and it may be necessary to use foreign ports. Polenergia has already chosen the location of the service outlet. It will be built in eba. – This port needs updating and optimization. He said that we depend on cooperation with the management to carry out the work on time.

Much is said about the so-called local content, that is, the participation of Polish companies in the supply chain. Investors are waiting for competitive and secure offers. – Polish companies should be ready to make such offers. We are in dialogue with the industry and it can be seen that companies are not sufficiently prepared. And time is short, and we are already conducting tenders – Stryjecki is aware. Polenergia has announced that it will support management, local governments and businesses themselves in building innovation and improving efficiencies.

The industry calculates that the so-called sectoral deal, a sectoral agreement to develop offshore wind energy, which will be signed on September 15, will speed up the process of companies adapting to the needs of investors.

– Sectoral deal is the seal of some activities. The agreement works both ways – the government is preparing something for us, but we, as investors, are obligated to prepare the sector, the Polish economy, for one of the biggest challenges, which is building new economic branches. This is a guarantee for the development of offshore wind energy over time, and it is a roadmap for us. It will contain a lot of details and specific actions that need to be taken – reported Janusz Jagowitzky, president of the Polish Wind Energy Association.

Having a specialized fleet used to build windmills offshore will also be a challenge. Rafał Miętkiewicz of the Energy Policy Institute. I. Łukasiewicza confirmed that today there are 50 specialized installation units available in the world, two thirds of which operate exclusively in Asia. The rest is operated in Northern Europe. The increasing volume of future investments will mean a major problem in the availability of this type of vessel.

Lotos Petrobaltic, which has been operating in Ofchura for thirty years, but in the oil and gas sector, sees a huge opportunity here. The company is engaged in exploration and production in the Baltic Sea. Now he wants to change industries and move toward offshore wind energy. Grzegorz Strzelczyk, president of Lotos Petrobaltic, estimates that extracting hydrocarbons could take another 10-15 years, while offshore wind farm projects will last 50 or 60 years. He divided it into four stages – preparation, construction, operation and dismantling.

Lotos Petrobaltic plans to build a fleet. – Foundation mounting units are crucial. Base ships are available in more than actual build ships. We will build such a unit. He said we are in contact with the turbine developers manufacturers.

Advice from investors will be key. The design of the ship will depend on the foundations that will be used in the implementation of marine investments – jackets or monopods. Monoliths are long tubes that are pushed to the sea floor, up to 100 meters in height, suitable for sandy, muddy or soft rock bottoms. On the other hand, jackets are foundations on three legs that are used in places with rocky bottoms. The ships will also be adjusted to the size of the turbines transported to the “construction site”. Currently, 15 MW turbines are often referred to.

Lotos Petrobaltic also intends to build service vessels. While creating the mounting units for the first stage is a huge challenge, there should be no problems with service ships. It’s an opportunity for our company, but it’s also a huge challenge. The company’s president said investors’ work schedules are the main problem. The company’s assumption is to commission the production of ships for Polish shipyards.

The key is whether management creates the conditions for us to be able to compete against foreign shipowners. We must be competitive, because the investor will not be guided by feelings. We are in dialogue with the Maritime Office in Gdynia, with the Ministry of Infrastructure, to create a suitable environment for Polish shipowners, Strchik told.

EU information platform BalticWind is useful in planning foreign investments. It supports external sector communications in Europe. – A fragmented view of the Baltic Sea is common. Investments are considered on a plot of the map, limited to Polish territorial waters. Meanwhile, a broader view is needed. Logistical bottlenecks are among the biggest challenges. Several projects will be developed simultaneously. Bauwe Frubel from BalticWind EU said cooperation and coordination would avoid unhealthy competition.

– We provide information about what is happening with other investors, how national regulations are changing in the countries of the Baltic region, and how local content is built for individual projects. This is to help build a knowledge base to share good practices. He added that our activity helps to utilize the huge potential of the Baltic Sea.

Efficiency of investments, adjustment of competitors’ activity schedules, and skilful planning may be essential in building offshore wind farms. Otherwise, we will have to push our elbows and fight hard. And in a direct clash, we may turn out to be weaker than the giants of the seas, even with foreign partners on our side.

Monica Borkoska

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