Offshore wind energy success is all about planning ahead

“Yes, the offshore wind power plant at Horns Reef was a mess in the beginning,” says Chief Operations Officer Flemming Ougaard. “But I sometimes feel that people forget that not only did we fix the problems and delivered 80 high performing wind turbines producing more than contracted – we also learned a great deal by doing so.”

The price for being a pioneer is often high. But according to Ougaard there is a lot to win from having experiences like the ones from Horns Reef.

“One of the most significant changes evolving from the Horns Reefs mistakes is the extensive amount of detailed planning ahead we do today,” Ougaard explains. “I don’t think people quite realise this. When we go out to sea we need to know exactly what to do and how long time it will take. We can’t just come back tomorrow and do the last bit.”

The 160 MW wind farm at Horns Reef is located 18 km off the coast of Esbjerg in the unruly North Sea – a much more changeable site than most onshore sites. This means a need for extensive planning and elimination of potential risks. And this again can only be achieved through knowledge and experience.

“One of the reasons for creating the BU Vestas Offshore was to get the best specialists in the world together,” says Flemming Ougaard, who has been with Vestas for 12 years and with Offshore since it was established in 2006. “We have been in the offshore business longer than any other wind turbine manufacturer and our experiences – good and bad – have given us a lot of knowledge.”

He’s been through some troublesome weeks and months with the V80-2.0 MW turbines at Horns Reef, but has also seen how everybody learned from it and how that has helped develop the offshore wind industry dramatically.

“Back then [in 2002] offshore projects belonged in the SBU’s locally. That meant that a new bunch of new people worked out the projects each time. I have always had the highest respect for the work done by the SBU’s – But doing business in treacherous weather and meter tall swells is simply a different game. I dare say that today Vestas Offshore has the most experienced people in the world dealing with wind offshore,” Ougaard concludes.

Horns Reef may have started out with trouble and challenge. But it ended up being one of the world’s best performing offshore wind farms.

On 30 March Vestas will reveal their new offshore wind turbine.