UK-based renewables developer RES is one of the longest-standing players in the offshore wind market. Its involvement dates back to the early 2000s, when it initiated development of the 90MW Inner Dowsing project. RES sold it on in 2003 to the UK's largest residential energy supplier, Centrica.
RES has grown with the industry and its offshore arm is now one hundred strong and able to draw on an additional 20-30 staff with relevant skills from other parts of the group. This represents about 10% of RES Group's global workforce.
Its offshore wind project portfolio includes work on another Centrica-owned project, the 270MW Lincs wind farm, and it has also contributed to Centrica's remaining Round 2 project, the 580MW Race Bank wind farm, about which a final investment decision has yet to be announced.
As the size of offshore wind farms has grown, the company's role as a direct developer of new projects has been restricted by its balance sheet. RES currently owns a stake in two planned offshore wind farms, the 500MW Saint Brieuc project, which its French subsidiary, Eole-RES (30% stake), will build in partnership with Iberdrola, and a 600MW project in Northern Irish waters that it shares with Dong Energy and B9 Energy. RES Offshore holds an undisclosed proportion of the 50% stake it shares in the Northern Irish project with B9 Energy.
Rights to develop both projects were awarded last year, making 2012 a rather good one for RES, which is wholly owned by the Sir Robert McAlpine family.
With equity stakes in European offshore wind projects difficult to secure, and likely to remain so, RES Offshore has developed a mixed business model, positioning itself as both a developer and a service provider. Its current priorities include expanding its operations and maintenance offering and bidding for a met mast contract in the UK, commercial manager Andy Beetham told Windpower Offshore.
But this does not mean it has given up on winning development rights for future projects. "We regularly review markets. Our offshore focus has been on the UK, the US and France, but we are looking closely at what might come next," says Beetham.
RES Offshore is excited by prospects in France, where a second offshore wind tender is on the horizon, and where it is a leading player in the onshore wind market via subsidiary Eole-RES.
It is also focused on the US eastern seaboard and, possibly, the newly-announced Danish offshore tender. "But we look at all markets with rigour," points out Beetham. "We need to see if the returns are there.” Further afield, the company is aware of recent developments in floating technology, especially in Japan, but prefers to take a cautious approach.
"We probably wouldn't be the first to develop a wind farm with floating turbines," says Beetham. "We take technology risks at a size commensurate with the size of our business," he explains. "It's not a lack of vision or understanding that stops us...we have excellent engineers who can contribute to a demonstration site, but we can't fund it."
As the offshore wind industry grows and faces increasing technical challenges, Beetham sees RES Offshore playing an important role in partnering with other players to deliver the most appropriate package of services.
"Each project is different in terms of the particular stage it's got to when you enter it, the other players involved, and specific circumstances," he says. Beetham hopes RES Offshore can contribute to delivering more certainty on project construction timetables. "I suspect there is less drama in delivering a gas power station than an offshore wind project, at present," he notes wryly.
Beetham hopes the offshore wind sector will prove that it can take significant challenges in its stride. "As more projects are delivered, I am confident this will happen. It's something we must achieve."