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Manufacturing


Offshore wind turbines come in large sizes at high costs, which means that quality and reliable suppliers are essential.


for Siemens Gamesa’s Offshore Business Unit. “The massive sizes of offshore wind turbines and high cost-of-entry into the industry require solid, reliable suppliers.”


“Given the long project times we work with in offshore wind, we are accustomed to thinking ahead and mitigating risks.”


Ken Kaser $600bn


Post-pandemic calculation about how much revenue the global wind turbine supply


chain is expected to generate every year up to 2028. Wood Mackenzie


24


Shashi Barla, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie, makes a similar point. With the turbines themselves absorbing the majority of the total cost of a new farm, he explains that it’s vital for stakeholders to get a good deal on logistics. That’s especially true, he adds, when it comes to economies of scale. “To reduce costs, companies are launching bigger turbines,” he says, something that would be impossible without delivery efficiencies and timely arrivals. Certainly, the statistics seem to support him. According to a Wood Mackenzie study last year, for instance, the global wind turbine supply chain is expected to generate up to $600bn of revenue every year between now and 2028, a total uptick of over 35%. An impressive figure, yet also one that starts to explain why the industry has had so much trouble of late. With facilities stretched across continents, and impressive growth in emerging economies like China and India, wind energy logistics is big business. But that same global reach can quickly collapse the moment borders begin to close. Consider Kaser and his colleagues at Siemens Gamesa. With factories in Denmark, England and Germany, and plans to open new sites in France and Taiwan, a lockdown in just one of those spots can bring the whole supply chain to a grinding halt, something Kaser admits “created challenges” early on in the pandemic.


There are more specific challenges too. Even before the pandemic struck, there was a shortage of certain


critical turbine components, including the roller bearings that connect to their gearboxes and, ultimately, allow the turbines to keep spinning. That naturally puts manufacturers and operators in a tricky position – especially, Barla adds, given that the trend has been to make bigger turbines, needing more and more parts. Work by the US Energy Information Administration, for its part, suggests that these problems are affecting the completion of new turbines in the field, with 1.2GW of wind turbine projects “citing the pandemic’s mitigation factors as a cause for delays”.


Time well spent


Between planning and construction, battles with regulators and fending off angry residents, it takes about seven years for a new wind farm to actually start spinning. That may be frustrating under normal circumstances, but these time lags have actually proved incredibly useful over recent months. “Given the long project times we work with in offshore wind,” Kaser explains, “we are accustomed to thinking ahead and mitigating long-term risks. The same sound fundamental planning and risk-management practices required for successful projects benefitted us in these Covid-19 times.” Indeed, Kaser adds, though there were challenges early on, no Gamesa deliveries have been affected by the pandemic so far. Not that Siemens Gamesa has quite been able to carry on as normal. Like every company on earth, big or small, it’s had to change how it does business. That includes boosting cleaning in factories and encouraging staff to work at home, even if Kaser notes that “keeping cohesion” among teams scattered in different neighbourhoods can be tough too. When it comes to supply chains in particular, meanwhile, equipment manufacturers have looked to diversify their options. As Barla notes, that’s especially true in the onshore market – for turbines destined far from shore, there are


World Wind Technology / www.worldwind-technology.com


industryviews/Shutterstock.com


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