Early April saw some important developments in the Dutch offshore wind market, including the start of the tendering procedure for the Borssele I and II offshore windfarms. This followed the adoption in March 2016 of amendments to the Electricity Act 1998, which enabled further development of offshore wind energy projects. Back in 2013, the Dutch Government signed an energy agreement with a wide range of parties involved in the energy market. The government aims to increase the country’s offshore wind capacity from 1GW to 4.5GW by 2023.
The Netherlands Enterprise Agency said consortia wishing to respond to the tenders would have until May 2016 to do so and published a revised project and site description for Borssele I and II. With sites I and II the subject of the first Borssele tender, sites III, IV and V are expected to be tendered out in the second Borssele tender, which is currently scheduled for September/October 2016.
As previously highlighted in OWJ, the Borssele windfarm zone is divided into five sites, with sites I, II and IV having a capacity of 350MW. Site III is a 320MW zone, and site V is intended for innovation and demonstration projects and will be limited to 20MW.
The Dutch Government published the site decisions for the Borssele offshore windfarms in the Dutch Gazette or Staatscourant. The site decisions contain the construction and operating conditions for the windfarms and secure the sites for construction and subsequent operation. As highlighted above, the decisions allow for the preparation of an innovation site to demonstrate techniques that will reduce the cost of offshore wind energy. This particular site will host two turbines with a maximum combined capacity of 20MW and will be tendered separately from the other sites. The site decisions are open to appeal until 20 May.
Representatives of law firm Baker & McKenzie noted that the Dutch transmission system operator TenneT also recently published the definitive drafts for its offshore agreements: a realisation agreement (or offshore REA), an offshore connection and transmission agreement (offshore CTA) and offshore general terms and conditions (offshore GTC). These drafts were established through an extensive consultation process involving legal expert meetings organised by TenneT throughout the year. The offshore REA and CTA set out the terms for the realisation of a windfarm’s connection and the subsequent transport of electricity to the high voltage grid. Some of the provisions in the offshore REA and the CTA involve TenneT’s right to receive full reimbursement of costs and its rights to commissioning and compliance testing. The offshore REA and the CTA also contain a step-in provision for the lenders; to the extent required, TenneT indicates that it may enter into a direct agreement with the lenders.
Law firm Loyens & Loeff said the site decisions are subject to appeal and that, should an appeal occur, the competent administrative court will have to decide within a statutory period of six months if the appeal is valid or not. “If the appeals are dismissed by the court, irrevocable windfarm site decisions for Borssele I and II can be expected October 2016,” it explained. Earlier draft versions of the site decisions refer to the outcome of the environmental impact assessment that was performed in early 2015. The decisions contain provisions for limiting noise levels during construction and provide that production should be suspended during bird and bat migrations.
A number of foundation types are being considered for the wind turbines for sites I and II, including monopiles, tripods, jackets, gravity-based units and suction buckets. Abandonment and decommissioning obligations are also part of the draft decisions. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency website provides technical data, maps and results from site investigations to the extent available, including the project and site description of August 2015.
Loyens & Loeff said that newly inserted into the final site decisions for Borssele I and II (compared to the draft decisions) is an additional requirement for the permit holder to make an effort to design, build and to operate the windfarm in such a way that doing so will actively contribute to the reinforcement of the local and regional economy. For this purpose, a local and regional economy action plan needs to be submitted by developers.