Although the official announcement mentions 2020, Horns Rev 3 is expected to be complete as early as in May 2019. The 'halfway cake' has already been eaten to celebrate that half the turbines have been erected. "It's unique being part of a project like this that reaches into the future," the project director says. "Thanks for the cake," calls a happy man wearing neon-yellow work clothes and a wide smile.
We are aboard the Brave Tern, a Fred. Olsen installation ship that reached the Port of Esbjerg the night before. The ship arrived directly from the Horns Rev 3 farm where four turbines have just been installed. By the next morning, three turbine towers are already standing on the deck of the ship while the last tower weighing 334.5 tonnes is suspended above the deck in front of us.
The cake, which seemed to hit the sweet spot, is a 'halfway cake'. 26 turbines out of the 49 are now ready. Even though the wind has been tricky this autumn, Vattenfall expects the farm to be finished in good time before 2020 when, as agreed with Danish government, the farm should be complete.
"Generally speaking, the installation process is progressing well, so we hope to be handing over the farm in May," Martin Zappe says.
He is Vattenfall's project director for Horns Rev 3. Vattenfall had actually hoped to finish even faster but the wind has been slightly tricky and the status right now is that 49 foundations are ready, 26 turbines are in place and the cables are laid for 11 turbines.
"We are spending a lot of time on the weather at the moment," he adds, sounding slightly tired. If the wind is blowing harder than 12 metres per second, the turbines cannot be erected on site.
First the four towers are lowered onto the ship and bolted down. The level of precision required is within a matter of centimetres. 12% more wind electricity
The first turbine was installed on 19 July only four days behind schedule, but September was very windy. Vattenfall would have liked all the installations to have been completed this year but that seems a tall order now.
Yet, that does not overshadow the fact that Denmark will soon be increasing its wind-generated electricity capacity by 12% with one fell swoop when Horns Rev 3 opens. The farm will cover the annual electricity consumption of 425,000 Danish homes and is the first new large offshore wind farm to be built in Denmark in the past five years.
"Denmark's electricity production from wind turbines will now rise significantly. This is a major step in the development of offshore wind energy, which has reduced the price of wind turbine power, and the next wind farms will be even cheaper," Martin Zappe says.
Vattenfall is now the largest developer of offshore wind power in Denmark and will invest more than EUR 20 billion in Denmark's green transition up to 2022. In addition to Horns Rev 3, Vattenfall will construct the forthcoming coastal offshore wind farms Vesterhav South and North near Søndervig as well as Kriegers Flak in the Baltic Sea.
With the towers in position, the four nacelles are moved across the deck of the ship. Each one weighs 380 tonnes.
A nacelle passes by
Wearing proper safety gear, we are given a tour of the ship. We inspect the recently fitted turbine towers that stretch up on the deck but are held down tight with a couple of hundred bolts at the base. Then a nacelle swings silently past and the 380 tonnes glide quietly into position accompanied only by the clicks of the photographer's shutter.
On the quay, the next nacelle slides into position and before the day is over, 12 turbine wings are also in position on deck, so at dawn, the ship can sail the 20 kilometres out to the wind farm and another four turbines will be installed.
A round trip like that from loading until arrival with another four turbines takes 7-9 days. Unless the weather plays up.
Senior Project Manager Morten Schrøder surveys the deck happily as equipment is stacked and prepared. The weather is right for working at the moment.
He is employed by the A2Sea, the company responsible for bringing the turbines from the port out to the site. The cake was also his idea, and it went down well.
The logistical challenge of taking the turbines offshore is pretty obvious, and transport like that must be ordered at least 12 months in advance.
Morten Schrøder is pleased to be part of the project.
"It's a fascinating construction project. It's big, Danish and challenging. Partly because the seabed out there presents problems. But it's fundamentally very satisfying to be part of an industry creating green energy," he says.187 metres from wing tip to the sea
It was back in 2015 that Vattenfall was awarded the concession to build and operate Horns Rev 3. With a kilowatt price of 77 øre per kWh (one Danish krone is worth 100 øre) which was record-low at the time, Vattenfall knocked out the competition.
Martin Zappe is also enthusiastic. Before he joined Vattenfall six years ago, he built tunnels and bridges. Now he works with the MHI Vestas V164 on the 8.3 MW turbine, which is one of the world's most powerful wind turbines in serial production.
"I'm not a big man, but I love big projects. They're like big toys. The bigger the better," says Martin Zappe with a grin.
And the turbines measuring 187 metres from the base to the tip of the highest wing certainly fit the bill. That beats the highest bit of ground anywhere in Denmark.
Yet, despite it all, boyish fascination is not the most important factor for Martin Zappe. The perspectives offered by the project are what make him seriously proud and enthusiastic.
"It's fascinating being able to contribute to the historic energy transition taking place in Denmark right now. We can reflect on the sustainable development and I'm proud and honoured to be part of it. It's unique being part of a project like this that reaches into the future," he says.
On deck, everything is constructed for transporting precisely the kind of turbine that the ship carries. In this case, MHI Vestas V164, 8.3 MW.
Martin Zappe is impressed by Esbjerg
He is also impressed by Esbjerg. Offshore wind is a new industry that has emerged in just a few years, and has required gigantic investments and challenges. Among other things in the ports.
"It's fascinating to see what this industry has done for Esbjerg and vice versa. The port has developed admirably, so there are good pre-assembly and port facilities. After all, Esbjerg is a relatively small city compared with Rotterdam, for example, but the commitment from the city is huge," he says.
Offshore wind has also prompted a fundamental change at Vattenfall, which is investing heavily in this field and has more bound for Denmark.
The plan is for the wind farms Vesterhav North and Vesterhav South to be operating before the end of 2020, whereas Kriegers Flak in the Baltic Sea will be operating before the end of 2021.
"It's not many years since we began working with offshore wind but Horns Rev 3 is our largest individual investment and it definitely improves our portfolio," Martin Zappe says.
Vattenfall was one of the first companies to conduct a subsidy-free project and has since won another for the expected market price.
"We are part of the subsidy-free future," Martin Zappe says.
Brave Tern is the name of the ship transporting turbine towers, nacelles and wings out to the site where they are being erected as part of Horns Rev 3. Russian, Irish and a friendly tone
Back aboard the Brave Tern, the men in their yellow overalls are speaking Russian, Filipino, Irish and various other languages. They are laughing and chatting in a friendly manner across nationalities.
The weather has cleared up from fog to blue skies. 25 kilometres from the harbour quay, 26 turbines are being tested and cables checked – before long the first power test is being conducted. The next morning, the ship sailed out as planned with four more turbines.
Now more than half the turbines are ready on site. The turbine is a Vestas V164, 8.3 MW - the world's most powerful wind turbine in serial production.
Source: Port of Esbjerg