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‘Pilot project: We’re building floating offshore wind power plants’ Interview with Minka St. James, Schmidbauer GmbH & Co. KG, about the Provence Grande Large project

‘Pilot project: We’re building floating offshore wind power plants’

EEHH: Could you please tell us something about the basic framework of the Provence Grande Large project in the south of France, and what is special about it?

Minka St. James: In March 2020, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) commissioned us to support the heavy loads logistics of three prototype floating offshore wind power plants for the ‘Provence Grand Large’ project being implemented by EDF Renouvelables in Fos-sur-Mer, France. Since then we’ve been part of the innovative engineering team and intensively involved in planning.

Schmidbauer is responsible for the entire port logistics for the project, and is managing the assembly of the wind power plant plants. For example, the port area was reinforced according to our specifications, and a special load distribution concept was developed.

In this innovative project, the floating foundations for the installation are placed on the open sea, and we erect the components on these, including the blades, from the loading quay. The assembled floating wind power plant is then towed by towboats to the place where it will finally be used, approx. 17 km from the Napoléon beach, and moored there.

Schmidbauer has provided for the project the main crane, a 1,350-tonne LR 11350 crawler crane with 150 m power boom, a 400-tonne CC 2400-1 crawler crane as a support crane, 40 SPMT (self-propelled modular transporter) axles and a 130-tonne mobile crane. We will begin on-site construction at the end of March; hoisting from the quay then will start at the beginning of June. To give you some idea of the dimensions: the main crane alone will be delivered using around 120 trucks. That requires a well-rehearsed logistics team. We will be working on the building site with around 10 people from the Schmidbauer Heavy Lift department until the beginning of August.

In this way, the first floating wind farm in France at Port Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, with 8.4 MW output from each turbine, will originate from the southern French coast in the Faraman region. With the aid of the plant, it is also planned to gather important data, in order to advance further development of this floating technology and, at the same time, better assess its influence on the ecosystem.

EEHH: How exactly did the tendering process for Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy work, Minka?

Minka St. James: In November 2019 we received the tender documentation from SGRE and then, in February 2020, we were invited to the site in France along with two fellow bidders. It was strange for us to be competing with each other for the project almost simultaneously. Nevertheless, thanks to our persuasive engineering concept, which was based on the groundwork of our many years’ experience in offshore, we were able to secure this exciting, instructive project. Since then, we’ve been intensively involved in the process with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy. This close dialogue with them from early on has been very helpful for the project and is highly valued by all those involved in it.

EEHH: What is special about the Grande Large project?

Minka St. James: These three floating offshore wind power plants are prototypes that are unique in the whole world. They are particularly environmentally friendly because they only cover a very small area of the sea surface and use a mooring system that has minimal impact on the seabed. The plant is intended to supply a total of 45,000 domestic households with 25 MW of energy. The general public was also involved in the project in advance through appearances of the project developer, EDFR, at large-scale events.

We are aware that heavy load logistics plays an important role in plant assembly for any wind project. As a service provider, we’re often included in projects far too late. In this case, it was very valuable for us to be able to enhance the project with our expertise from the start. We have acquired a great deal of experience in the installation of conventional wind plants over the past 15 years, which the Grande Large project was naturally able to benefit from.

EEHH: Will Schmidbauer continue to be involved in the floating offshore field?

Minka St. James: Yes, most definitely. Over the past year we’ve deliberately invested in equipment for energy transition projects, which demands great courage and willingness to take risks on the one hand, but also demonstrates the corresponding awareness of responsibilities on the part of this family SME.

There are only a few cranes of this size category in the whole of Europe – in Germany, we only have this one. It would be preferable if we in Germany were to pay more attention to the idea of ‘local content’, without placing restraints on competition in the process. In the US for example, where offshore wind is currently picking up speed very rapidly, considerably more attention is paid to local providers.

The US market could also become more significant for us in the long-term view, since the majority of offshore projects there are planned to have floating wind turbines – here, perhaps, we could support them with our rich experience. This is why, at the end of March, we will be paying our second visit to the International Partnering Forum (IPF) in Baltimore, in order to learn about current trends and further promote dialogue with industry. We rely on strong partnerships to overcome together the challenges we already know and, perhaps, those we still don’t know about.

Provence Grand Large - Découvrez le projet - YouTube

About Astrid Dose

Profilbild zu: Astrid Dose

Talking, writing, organising – and having lots of fun! This is what my days at the EEHH Cluster look like. I’ve been responsible for public relations and marketing for the Hamburg industry network since 2011. I studied History and English and have a soft spot for technical issues.