WindEurope has confirmed that to date, the offshore wind industry has not been seriously affected by the coronavirus pandemic and that projects, seabed leasing rounds and auctions are proceeding largely as planned
Addressing a webinar organised by Norwegian Energy Partners, WindEurope chief policy officer Pierre Tardieu said upcoming auctions for offshore wind in the UK and the Netherlands are on schedule.
“This is important because it is providing visibility for the supply chain,” Mr Tardieu said. “It ensures businesses can be confident things are going ahead.”
The schedule for the UK’s Round 4 seabed leasing has been adjusted slightly, but next Dutch zero-subsidy offshore wind auction, Hollandse Kust North, opened as scheduled and is expected to close on 20 April 2020.
“Manufacturing for offshore wind has been less affected than onshore wind because most factories are in countries that have been less affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most factories building blades and turbines and other components have remained open, with only temporary closures in some cases,” said Mr Tardieu.
He said some problems have arisen in the construction segment as a result of restrictions on the movement of personnel, particularly if personnel are required to cross borders between countries. Restrictions on the movement of people for maintenance activity is a concern, though.
Port operations have been progressing well in most of the countries in Europe in which offshore wind projects are under construction. “With the exception of Spanish ports and yards/fabrication facilities, most have been working regularly,” said Mr Tardieu. “A few problems have arisen in countries especially badly hit by the pandemic, for instance at fabricators such as Navantia in Spain, where a state of emergency was declared.
“Construction activity has been proceeding well in most countries,” said Mr Tardieu, noting that there had been one or two instances of interruptions to schedules, such as on the Saint Nazaire offshore windfarm in France, as a result of delays in progress with the project’s substation. “The rest of the project is running as planned,” he said.
Regarding finance, Mr Tardieu said it is possible that projects for which a final investment decision has not yet been taken “might be more vulnerable” and some riskier projects might be postponed or put on hold temporarily. “Investors are more concerned about debt than equity projects,” he explained.
He said he foresees a potential role for the European Investment Bank to “smooth things over” if the crisis is prolonged or should worsen, acting as it did in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
“Overall, the impact on key players in the market varies, but business continuity has been preserved in most cases,” Mr Tardieu concluded, although he said expects that progress with projects in some emerging offshore wind provinces will inevitably be slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic.