The Gemini Wind Park, which is located 85 kilometers north of the Dutch coast in the Dutch North Sea, will become one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms once operational. The project comprises two wind farms, Buitengaats and Zee-energie, each with 75 wind turbines, where the name Gemini – meaning twins – comes from. The project started in 2009 when the permits were granted and the renewable energy subsidy, a Dutch government price subsidy lasting 15 years from completion, was granted to the developer. CEO Matthias Haag joined the project in 2013 at the time when Gemini Wind Park saw the first action to make the project a reality.
“Real action began in 2013, when the four shareholders came together to put up a letter of credit to the Dutch government of €40 million, which had to happen by August 2013. It was also the time when the major shareholder Northland Power stepped in with 60 per cent,” said Haag.
The other three shareholders Haag mentions are Siemens Wind Power (20%), Van Oord (10%) and HVC (10%). Haag entered the fray in 2013 and immediately began building the team for the construction of the project. At that time Gemini Wind Park officially came into existence.
At a cost of €2.8 billion Gemini Wind Park is the largest ever offshore wind farm financed on a project basis. All the financing was wrapped up in a period of only six months, reaching financial close in May 2014, as a consortium of banks and export credit agencies and the European Investment Bank came together to agree to provide facilities for the total amount to build the wind park.
“I believe it’s a good project, the Dutch government has set up a structure for these kinds of projects that works well for banks too. We structured the project in a way that was always meant to be project financed,” reflected Haag. “The developers did a very good job in preparing everything for that and setting up contracts in a way that banks could easily see through. It avoided a lot of interface by having very clear risk allocations in the contracts.”
The wind park will become a significant contributor of renewable energy, not only on a national level but also impacting the European clean energy context.
“It is by far the biggest project in the Netherlands, the 600 megawatt (MW) production capacity and the very good wind regime on location equates to 2.6 Terawatt hours (TWh). That doesn’t tell people much but we refer to it as enough power for 1.5 million people to meet their electricity requirements or 1.25 million tonnes of CO2 that are reduced yearly because of the park,” explained Haag.
From the perspective of the locale it is a huge project. Once completed Gemini Wind Park will more than double the offshore wind capacity that is installed in the Netherlands. It will increase renewable energy production by almost 20 per cent and will also decrease the fossil fuel power used in the Netherlands by around 3 per cent. It will boost the wind power production in the Netherlands by 30 per cent alone.
Haag said: “It’s really having a huge impact on the renewable energy scene in the Netherlands, in the context of the EU of course that impact gets smaller but I think it’s really important for the project to get to the target that has been set.”
On a worldwide level the Gemini Wind Park will sit second, just behind the United Kingdom’s London Array wind farm, as the biggest wind farm in terms of capacity, however in terms of production Gemini Wind Park will be the world’s biggest windfarm due to the healthier offshore wind regime.
“In terms of the 2.6 TWh, there is no wind park in the world right now producing or delivering that kind of energy,” beamed Haag.
When asked to reflect on 2015 Haag sees it as a year when the project saw a turning point as key infrastructure was put in place as the project became a reality.
“It was a very busy year for us, turbulent is probably a good word too. We got through a huge amount of work with the help of all our contractors and sub-contractors – we built an onshore substation, we laid more than 200 km of export cable, we laid more than half the influent cables for the wind park, we built the complete electrical infrastructure so that we were energised with two platforms. We built and installed two offshore platforms and then we built, in record time, 150 foundations, all offshore within three months which is a fantastic achievement,” Haag reflected.
“Looking back I would say 2015 was certainly a very important and busy year for us where a lot of items were completed that many other wind parks find complications with.”
Gemini Wind Park is quickly moving toward completion as February saw the completion of 150 turbine foundations as well as the installation of the first turbine and on February 29th first power was realised in the wind park.
Haag does not underestimate the important work completed by all the contractors and sub-contractors in bringing the Gemini Wind Park project to where it is now. The two main contractors are shareholders Siemens and Van Oord.
“Siemens is responsible for supplying, installing and commissioning the turbines, while they will also operate the wind park for the next 15 years. Van Oord basically does all the construction plans – everything I have mentioned we completed in 2015 came from Van Oord,” said Haag.
“There was also major work from our sub-contractors like NKT supplying cables, NSW supplying influent cables, FICG a consortium who built the onshore station as well as both offshore stations and Smulders, SIF and EEW who supplied foundations.”
As developer, Van Oord had to choose what turbines to take. Siemens, using its financial services, will help to finance projects which use a lot of Siemens content making this a logical decision. Haag underlines Van Oord’s wholehearted support for the project from the off, “They wanted it to go ahead and made sure they took the opportunity when it arose.”
With the help of both shareholders Gemini Wind Park is on target to meet the forecasted date for becoming fully operational in the first half of 2017. However, Haag is hopeful there is a chance of beating that timeframe.
“I think we have a chance of beating that schedule but it is dependent on a lot of different variables. With projects of this size you always have to plan with some contingency,” he said.
The project has a 20-year offshore licence and the Dutch government subsidy it will receive will only last 15 years into the project. Haag hopes the wind park will continue to produce energy after this period although he says it is totally dependent on the price of energy and also the state of the equipment in the future.
Haag project-managed the first offshore wind farm of its kind in the Netherlands in 2006 and he believes a lot has changed in the industry since then.
“The industry has moved on a lot, the whole thing is far more professionalised, it is becoming a production line of everything. When we did the first wind park 10 years ago there were a lot of things we had to find out as we went, new things had to be discovered and invented while the project was happening.”
“Currently, it is running like a production line offshore, the production of turbines and the supply chain is far more industrialised, it is a largely more grown-up industry compared to a decade ago.”
Heading up the Gemini Wind Park project and completing one of the world’s largest offshore wind parks puts Haag in a unique position of being able to offer advice to future developers.
“In the end every project has unique lessons. The most important element is that the responsibilities are clear, the allocation of risk is clear between the parties, who is taking what risk and who is responsible for what,” advised Haag. “Rigorous project management is key and also choosing the right partners from the very beginning.”
Looking into Gemini Wind Park’s future, Haag hopes that this project can set the scene of the Dutch wind energy market, it will be focused on the operation of the wind park and providing energy for the Netherlands as its first selling point.
“I hope to see Gemini Wind Park as a successful project that was built on-time and on-budget and produces the energy that is forecasted. Hopefully it will be seen as a step towards the overall cost reduction in offshore wind,” concluded Haag.