Consultancy leads pack in offshore wind technical support

Advice to investors and owners earns Mott MacDonald strong reputation

Mott MacDonald is best known in the offshore wind market for its work as an engineering-led adviser to offshore wind owners and investors, providing technical due diligence on project viability. Less well publicised has been the global consultancy’s engineering design and masterplanning work for offshore wind projects, particularly the design of electrical systems.

The consultancy’s reputation as a leading offshore consulting engineer for wind owners and investors has been well earned. Thus far, it has provided technical due diligence in support of financing decisions for more than a dozen offshore wind farms, including:

-         Lynn & Inner Dowsing, UK North Sea

-         Ormonde, UK Irish Sea

-         Beatrice, UK North Sea

-         Princess Amalia (formerly Q7), Dutch North Sea

-         Belwind I, Belgian North Sea

-         Thornton Bank I, Belgian North Sea

-         Northwind, Belgian North Sea

-         Baltic I & II, German Baltic Sea

-         Meerwind Süd/Ost, German North Sea

-         Nordergründe, German North Sea.

Mott MacDonald’s success in this field is thanks, in large part, to the size and skill of its power division. The company’s 100 offshore wind-specific consultants sit within an almost 1,000-strong power division, with many more consultants with relevant skills in other parts of the business.

"We work across all power generation technologies, including all renewable technologies, and we have a strong team focused on the transmission and distribution of power," explains Simon Harrison, Mott MacDonald’s business development director for power.

Germany, France & Belgium

In Germany, a key client has been energy utility EnBW, which owns Baltic I and which is building Baltic II. Like many German energy firms, EnBW has been re-calibrating its electricity generation strategy to prioritise renewables, including offshore wind, following the federal government’s decision to phase out nuclear power.

Mott MacDonald has yet to acquire much work from France’s offshore wind players, however, Windpower Offshore understands it has had discussions with EDF. The consultancy has a renewables team based in Paris.

As a leading technical advisor to the Belgian offshore wind industry, it came as little surprise earlier this summer to learn that Mott MacDonald provided technical advice during finance negotiations for the Northwind project. In the past, the consultancy has been a member of a Belgian government panel charged with monitoring offshore wind projects.

Supporting UK projects

In the UK, Mott MacDonald has designed electrical systems and/or substations for several offshore wind farms. "We began with Barrow, and worked with the contractor on the detailed design for the electrical system and topside design for the offshore substation," says Joy Aloor, global development director for Mott MacDonald’s transmission and distribution division.

Since then, the consultancy has contributed to the design of the offshore substations for Robin Rigg and electrical systems for London Array and Gwynt y Môr.

As UK offshore wind developers gear up to submit planning applications for the much larger Round 3 projects, Mott MacDonald has been winning small-scale commissions from a number of players. Projects include optimisation of wind farm layout to minimise wake effects as well as onshore logistics.

"We are working on onshore masterplanning for Round 3 projects, assisting clients as they decide on logistics such as the location and design of onshore facilities, port selection and construction plans," explains Clare Rhodes James, Mott MacDonald's divisional director for renewable energy. "It is important to think carefully about onshore logistics. A good onshore masterplan can reduce a project’s overall costs."

Asia & North America

Taiwan has been a source of work for Mott MacDonald’s offshore wind experts, with the consultancy working for both public and private sector clients. Capacity building is a priority for Taiwan, explains Rhodes James, especially given the island’s decision to rule out nuclear power and to prioritise offshore wind as part of a strategy to reduce dependence on imported oil and gas.

Chinese clients have commissioned some offshore wind-related research and specialist advice, but Mott MacDonald has yet to win large commissions in China, acknowledges Harrison. It is in active discussions with developers such as China Southern Power Grid as well as several Chinese design institutes, which generally act as ‘gatekeepers’ for western consultancies seeking access to the Chinese market.

In the USA, Mott MacDonald has contributed to the design of the 25MW Fishermen’s Energy project, planned for waters off Atlantic City. There is great potential for large-scale offshore wind in the US, but there is also a lot of uncertainty due to the upcoming presidential election and low gas prices, says Harrison.

Skills shortage

Looking ahead, Aloor predicts that Mott MacDonald will be heavily involved in discussions about testing and standardisation of DC technology, which should allow improvements to be made that will optimise the performance of transmission and distribution cables. Such advances will require regional coordination, with Europe well positioned to take a lead on multinational standardisation.

Mott MacDonald would like to undertake far more offshore wind-related work, but needs more expertise. Despite being one of the most successful and largest engineering consultancies active in the offshore wind market, the company needs more hands on deck. "We could do a lot more if we had more people with the right skills, including individuals with HVDC engineering and offshore engineering experience," notes Harrison.

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