RES eyes US offshore market

Strong French track record supports St Brieuc project

UK renewable energy company, RES, is increasing the number of offshore wind markets in which it is active, having recently secured a co-development role for one of France’s first offshore projects and having begun preliminary work in the nascent US market.

Speaking with Windpower Offshore, RES Group’s chief executive Ian Mays confirmed that the company’s offshore team is growing rapidly. Currently comprising about 10% of the group’s 1000 international workforce, the size of RES’ offshore team is set to grow by a further 10-15% over the next few months.

RES had a high-profile success earlier this year, when the French energy ministry awarded the Sea Wings joint venture (jv) the right to develop a 500MW offshore wind farm within the Saint Brieuc zone. Sea Wings comprises Iberdrola (70%) and RES’ French business, Eole-RES (30%). "We bid for two French offshore projects and we were very pleased to win one," confirms May.

As one of the top three onshore wind developers in France, Eole-RES is experienced in dealing with French regulators and other authorities. This combined with RES’ substantial UK offshore wind experience suggests the group may be well positioned to become a lasting player in the emerging French offshore wind market.

US ambitions

RES’ ambitions for the US offshore market are more difficult to discuss in detail, given that few players in this nascent market are yet open about their plans. However, the company acknowledges that its consultancy arm is advising others on the feasibility of potential projects off the US east coast, while those with charged with deciding on RES’ own offshore development options are also watching the US market carefully.

"There is a significant offshore opportunity in the USA, but the pace of development is difficult to judge," says Chris Morgan, RES Offshore chief executive. "We were involved in the UK offshore market for a long time before anything was built. We are an independently-owned company, which allows us to take a long-term approach."

Wholly owned by the Sir Robert McAlpine family, one of the largest players in the UK construction and civil engineering sector, RES entered both the US and French onshore markets in 1996 and is a significant player in the US onshore sector, with about a 10% market share.

The group recorded net revenue of £725m (€899m) for the year ending 31 October 2011 (excluding revenue generated by retained projects).

UK positioning

In the UK, RES was one of the first to enter the offshore wind market – developing the Inner Dowsing project off the Lincolnshire coast as well as working on the Round 2 270MW Lincs project from its earliest stages. It has built a strong relationship supporting energy firm, Centrica, and RES is also working on Centrica’s 620MW Race Bank project.

Unlike its position in France, RES has not won co-development rights for any recently-awarded offshore projects in UK waters. In its domestic market, RES’ offshore activities currently focus on consultancy, construction services, and operation and maintenance (O&M), with the latter earmarked to grow as the UK’s offshore capacity increases.

While Mays acknowledges that RES has "not had Round 2 and 3 developments of our own", he explains that the company does not view itself as having withdrawn from competing for UK offshore wind development rights. "We’re interested in future opportunities and we’re keeping an open mind," he says.

The company has not yet been active in the German offshore wind sector, although its consultancy division may seek to enter this market.

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