French transmission system operator Réseau de Transporte d’Electricité (RTE) has hired UK consultancy Intertek to provide marine advisory services for the surveying and installation of export cables for the 480MW Saint Nazaire and 500MW Saint Brieuc projects.
Intertek’s input will help reduce project risk and mitigate against unforeseen delay, says the consultancy.
The contract, which runs until the end of 2014, will see Intertek assist RTE with risk management, drafting specifications for the procurement of geotechnical and geophysical surveys, contract negotiations, and providing procurement support for cable installation.
“French offshore project developers have the opportunity to learn important lessons from their counterparts based in the UK and Germany,” James Hunt, Intertek's head of offshore development and cables told Windpower Offshore. “A core part of this process entails understanding the risks and complexities that are inherent in the offshore wind supply chain," he added. "The procurement process therefore needs to be derisked as much as possible."
Given that the best time of year to conduct surveys is during the busy summer months, one of the challenges is to secure appropriate vessels, personnel and other resources when needed, explained Hunt.
The timetable for grid connecting the Saint Nazaire and Saint Brieuc wind farms is already causing concern. According to the terms of the French government offshore wind tender, at least 20% of both projects’ turbines must be in operation by the end of 2018, a further 30% in 2019, and the remainder in 2020.
RTE says it expects to start work on the Saint Brieuc connection in mid-2016 and complete the first phase - covering 50% of the wind farm’s capacity – by mid-2018. This will be followed by a second phase, to be completed by mid-2019. Details of RTE’s plans for the Saint Nazaire grid connection are not yet available.
France’s emerging offshore wind industry warns that this timetable is only realistic if cable installation go to plan and there are no legal challenges.
Intertek has worked on more than 30 subsea cable projects in the UK and five in Germany. Among recent contracts, the company has been hired by German transmission system operator, TenneT, to design and manage geophysical and geotechnical surveys prior to installation of export cables and offshore substations.