The offshore wind team at Ballast Nedam is busy with several projects, including a €250m contract for the engineering, procurement, construction and installation (EPCI) of 80 monopile foundations for WPD Offshore's Butendiek project.
With a track record in offshore wind that dates back to the mid-1990s, Ballast Nedam is recognised as one of the most experienced players in the foundations sector. Its work on the early Dutch offshore wind farm, the 108MW Egmond aan Zee project, is one of the reasons why the company's offshore wind foundations team has a deep understanding of the full life cycle of an offshore wind development, explains Ballast Nedam commercial manager, Edwin van de Brug.
Ballast Nedam has been responsible for the engineering design of more than 100 foundations and for the installation of more than 400. Its project portfolio is a long one and includes Anholt, Walney 2, Baltic 1 and London Array.
A key factor in Ballast Nedam's success in the foundation installation market is its vessel Svanen. Originally built for the construction of the 6.6km Storebaelt bridge in Denmark, Svanen can lift up to 8,700 tonnes. "The heaviest foundation for Walney 2 weighed 805 tonnes, which means that using Svanen offers a crucial safety margin," says van de Brug, speaking with Windpower Offshore.
Monopiles vs jackets
As offshore wind projects move into deeper waters, there has been increasing interest from developers in jacket foundations. Ballast Nedam designs all foundation types, and is particularly interested in exploring how monopile designs can be deployed in deeper waters.
"The monopile has been the best foundation solution so far — the most cost-efficient —and it takes less time to install than a jacket," notes van de Brug. "We think the use of monopiles can be stretched."
Recently, Ballast Nedam has been working on an unnamed Baltic Sea offshore wind project, comparing conventional steel monopiles with concrete monopiles. Its research suggests that concrete monopiles would be 10-20% less expensive. With offshore wind's cost of energy a politically sensitive issue, savings on this scale will not go unnoticed.
Looking ahead, van de Brug emphasises how young the offshore wind industry is and how many more innovative solutions there remain to be developed. "The truth is that it's fun to work in offshore wind. It's new and that's exciting. As an industry we know some routes and paths to answers, but we don't have all the answers yet," he says.
Commercially, Ballast Nedam is aiming for its offshore wind business to achieve "stable growth" over the coming few years. As the industry expands, the company will seek to maintain a market share similar to that which it currently enjoys.
While van de Brug will not be drawn on the profitability of Ballast Nedam's offshore wind business, he says the company is determined to remain a strong player in the foundations market and suggests it has made a healthy return on a good number of projects.
That said, as an EPCI contractor, Ballast Nedam is familiar with the difficulties of predicting the profitability of each new project. Pricing jobs for this market can be challenging, as the likes of Fluor and Kvaerner have, perhaps, learned to their cost.