10 years in the wind

Aibel has really made a breakthrough as a supplier to the offshore wind industry. Several major contracts were concluded in 2019, at an overall value of almost NOK 8 billion.

Windmills Big Logo
The grid operator TenneT awarded a major contract to an Aibel/Keppel FELS consortium in 2019 for the delivery of a HVDC platform and an onshore converter station for the DolWin 5 project. Illustration: Aibel.

“Relevant expertise from oil and gas, goal-oriented work over time and full support from corporate management, the board of directors and owners are the three key factors behind the success,” Lars Henrik Hosøy explains.

Hosøy heads Aibel’s business development and sales unit related to offshore wind. He has worked for Aibel since 2013, and for the last four years on positioning the company for new opportunities in this market.

“A demanding job, but we are a large and skilled team across different departments who are all very committed,” he says.

It’s certainly not a given that a Norwegian player should succeed in the offshore wind market. Norway as a nation is still behind several other countries where activities and efforts to create clean energy at sea have been significantly greater. In Norway the commitment to the oil and gas industry has been guiding.

“Now, however, we are seeing that Norwegian companies are playing a bigger role in offshore wind internationally. Equinor’s major efforts in recent years are an example of this,” states Hosøy.

Aibel ONS2018 280818 7253 1
Lars Henrik Hosøy and his colleagues at Aibel can celebrate a breakthrough for the goal-oriented efforts in offshore wind. Photo: Aibel/Øyvind Sætre.

The offshore wind pioneer

Aibel was a pioneer in the development of platforms that retrieve and convert electricity from windmills before sending it onshore. This happened through a partnership with ABB, who supplies the converter equipment, and was important in order to start targeted work towards this market.

“Our long and close cooperation with ABB has been very important. We have developed solutions for converter platforms where ABB has been responsible for the high voltage technology and Aibel for the platform solutions and support systems, and have learned a lot together along the way,” Hosøy says.

Aibel’s offshore wind voyage started in 2010, and the company secured its first contract as early as the following year – for DolWin beta, a submersible platform close to Helgoland on the German sector in the North Sea. This was a partnership between Aibel and ABB, where Aibel designed and built the platform, and ABB had the overall project responsibility towards the end customer and supplied cables and converter equipment.

Aibel Kolbeinsen Sjohus 230814 3580
DolWin beta is currently the most powerful offshore converter platform in the world. Here at Aibel's Haugesund yard in 2014. Photo: Aibel/Øyvind Sætre.

At the same time, Aibel used its experience from work on floating installations to win a contract with Equinor on the Hywind Scotland project, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm. The contract was signed in the summer of 2014, and Aibel could start the three-year work on designing towers, floating substructures and anchoring systems, as well as procurement and support in connection with installation and hook-up.

Aibel’s current order book clearly indicates how important offshore wind has become for the company: In terms of the order backlog that has been secured, offshore wind comprises approximately 40% of the overall value.

How important has it been for Aibel that the company had a head start?

“Very important. The requirements to relevant experience are only increasing – ten years ago it was sufficient to have experience from oil and gas. If you hope to win contracts now, you should also be able to refer to relevant offshore wind projects,“ Hosøy says, adding that the quality of Aibel’s concepts is also attractive in the market.

“Aibel doesn’t view offshore wind as something that will replace oil and gas, but rather as a supplement. Offshore wind is a newer and important leg for us to stand on, but we won’t lessen focus on oil and gas.”

Hywind Øyvind Gravås Woldcam Equinor
Aibel was a key partner throughout Equinor’s high-profile pilot project Hywind, off the coast of Scotland. Foto: Øyvind Gravås/Woldcam/Equinor.

The concept group is key

“So far, we have been responsible for the implementations of HVDC platforms and one contract for floating wind, which is assumed to become important in the medium-long term. There are also opportunities in the area of HVAC stations. Additionally, there are general efforts into studies and developments in low-carbon, zero-emission solutions and alternative energy carriers, such as hydrogen, which will be a key part of the energy transformation,” explains Jan Wigaard, who is head of the concept group in Field development and Offshore wind.

The group comprises 45 associates who are working hard to identify future opportunities. Technical studies are implemented and continuous development work is carried out to support Aibel’s business strategy. The work is essential for the offshore wind efforts and takes place in close collaboration with the company’s other departments.

Wigaard is clear that despite the good results in 2019, there is no reason to assume that the job has been done. “Realism in terms of where we stand is important, and so far we are operating in a narrow segment of the offshore wind area and need to reinforce Aibel’s position in both floating wind and HVAC stations. What we have acquired now is a springboard to further breakthroughs,” he emphasises.

A 10-year old dream

Aibel is without question a player with offshore wind in its sails. 2019 was a fantastic year for the company, with the contract for the offshore wind platform DolWin 5 in the German part of the North Sea as the headliner. In addition, there are two projects for Equinor and SSE Renewables in the UK, where Aibel will supply converter platforms to the Dogger Bank A and B projects on the Dogger Bank area, with an option for a third platform, Dogger Bank C.

Illustration Creyke Beck
Aibel will deliver two converter platforms for the world's largest offshore wind farm on the Dogger Bank area in the UK part of the North Sea. Illustration: Aibel.

Is this a dream that is now coming true?

“Yes, we have worked towards what is happening now for a decade. Now we are reaping the fruits of a strategically supported effort, extremely goal-oriented work over time. It started with having relevant expertise from oil and gas. Furthermore, we were given all the necessary support by management to conduct internal concept developments in partnership with ABB. In addition, the dedication and faith from the entire company has been decisive along the way. We really are a cohesive team that has achieved this,” Hosøy says.

While the development of wind power on shore has become a very contentious issue, offshore wind has been left alone. This doesn’t mean that the environmental aspect is at the bottom of the agenda.

“Our customers conduct extensive environmental studies to ensure that operations don’t impact wildlife. Both birds and fishing stocks are carefully assessed. And considerations to nature are just as important to us as well – whether they concern size, noise or time of the installation of the platform undercarriage on the seabed. Even analyses of temperature impacts are a part of what needs to be done in connection with the development of such concepts,” Lars Henrik Hosøy concludes.