Although the development of offshore wind energy in Poland is dynamic, there are still many problems to be solved. It is worth looking at it from the outside and asking someone with more experience for advice. We talk to the co-founder of the KODIAK company and its managing director, Marcel Traber, about the prospects for the development of the OWE industry in Poland and the role KODIAK can play in it.
Is the development of offshore wind energy in the Baltic Sea at risk?
We do not see crucial roadblocks for offshore wind in the Baltic Sea. In fact, there has been a significant increase in the number of offshore wind projects being developed in the Baltic Sea. Several countries have made significant progress in developing offshore wind energy in recent years. There is a growing interest in renewable energy and many countries, including Poland, have set ambitious targets for the deployment of offshore wind. In the last months however, we saw some negative indicators which might have an impact on project development activities. Rising interest rates and stretched supply chains might have a negative impact on future business cases. There are also the “evergreen’s operational challenges”, including environmental concerns, shortage of skilled personnel, limited public support, and political uncertainties. It's important for developers and policymakers to carefully assess and manage risks of offshore wind energy in the Baltic Sea.
KODIAK is a part of some big projects in German offshore wind among others. What was the biggest challenges the company faced during their development? What was the solutions to the biggest problems?
One of the biggest challenges has been the high costs associated with construction and grid connection. Developing offshore wind farms is significantly more expensive than onshore wind farms due to the complexities involved in constructing and maintaining infrastructure offshore. To address these challenges, KODIAK has developed a number of sophisticated EPCM-Services and also selects its staff very carefully because experienced and excellent skilled teams are key to keep things in check and costs at a feasible level. Furthermore, our clients – which are typically project developers and TSOs – have confirmed that they profit from our capabilities to deploying complete integrated project teams. Those teams have often worked together before and can thus immediately launch themselves into project work because there is a high level of trust and established working routines.
How can KODIAKs experiences be useful to the developers active on Polish market?
KODIAK has been at the forefront of offshore wind energy development and has gained significant expertise in the design, construction, and operation of offshore wind farms. We participated in most major German offshore wind projects in the Baltic Sea and worked on several interconnectors between Germany and Scandinavia. The seabed and metocean conditions in the Baltic Sea are very different from the North Sea. This has direct consequences on seabed investigation campaigns, installation strategies and technologies and risk management. Developers in Poland can leverage our expertise and best practices to improve the technical and operational aspects of their projects, leading to better performance and lower costs.
From the perspective of a company working on various projects on various markets, can you already see whether we have made or are making any mistakes in creating our OWE market in Poland?
In our view there were no significant mistakes made by Poland in creating its offshore wind energy market. In fact, Poland has made significant progress in developing its offshore wind potential, with several projects in the pipeline and ambitious targets for renewable energy deployment. However, there are several challenges and risks that Poland must carefully manage to ensure the successful development of its offshore wind energy market. We particularly see challenges in the field of grid connections, financing, environmental impacts and the like. Overall, while Poland has made progress in creating its offshore wind energy market, it will need to carefully manage these and other challenges to ensure the successful deployment of renewable energy and meet its ambitious targets for decarbonization.
There is a variety of major differences between the two rim seas and we can just point out a few here. The Baltic Sea is shallower and generally has calmer waters than the North Sea, which can make the construction and installation of offshore wind turbines less challenging. However, the Baltic Sea also experiences severe winter storms, which can create significant wave conditions that need to be considered during the design, installation and operation phases of offshore wind farms. Another major difference lies in the seabed conditions. While the North Sea mainly consists of a sandy geology with respective seabed movements, the Baltic Sea is very homogenous with conditions ranging from very soft to extremely hard. This requires careful consideration and has a direct impact on the installation strategies for e.g. subsea cables and foundations. Developers must ensure that equipment is designed to withstand the unique conditions of the Baltic Sea. Being a more geographically fragmented region than the North Sea, the Baltics can make the connection of offshore wind farms to the grid more challenging. Overall, while there are some similarities between the Baltic Sea and the North Sea in terms of offshore wind development, the unique characteristics of the Baltic Sea must be carefully considered and managed to ensure the successful deployment of offshore wind energy in the region.
There is a lot of ship traffic in the Baltic Sea. Is it good or bad for wind farms?
The high level of shipping traffic in the Baltic Sea impacts offshore wind farms in this area and usually leads to higher management complexity. The presence of ships can increase the risk of collisions and potential damage to the wind farm infrastructure, as well as increase the challenges of navigation and safety. Additionally, shipping noise and emissions can affect marine life and potentially impact the local ecosystem, which is a concern for some environmental groups. On the positive side, the presence of shipping infrastructure and related services can make it easier and more cost-effective to transport equipment and personnel to and from offshore wind farms. This can reduce the construction and operational costs of offshore wind farms and improve their overall economic viability. Therefore, careful planning and proper management of wind farm locations is important to balance the positive and negative impacts and minimize any potential risks to the wind farm operations.
The subject of the remnants of World War II lying on the bottom of the Baltic Sea is being raised more and more often, e.g. Shipwrecks, but also ammunition and chemical weapons. If they are encountered during work on a wind farm, the project may even be completely stopped. Is it a big risk? How to address this problem?
During the construction of offshore wind farms, seabed surveys are typically conducted to identify any potential hazards, including the presence of UXO or other hazardous materials. If such hazards are identified, appropriate measures can be taken to ensure the safety of workers and the environment, e.g. seabed surveys, risk assessments, clearances and other protective measures. However, if old ammunition is not identified before construction begins, it could pose a risk to the safety of workers and the integrity of the wind farm infrastructure. For example, if an explosive device is triggered during construction, it could damage or destroy critical components of the wind farm, leading to delays and increased costs. In addition, the presence of hazardous materials in the seabed could also have environmental implications, potentially contaminating marine ecosystems and posing a risk to human health. Therefore, it is important for offshore wind farm developers to conduct thorough seabed surveys and risk assessments to identify and mitigate any potential hazards posed by old ammunition or other hazardous materials in the Baltic Sea.
experiences and competences of KODIAK may be crucial for projects in
the Baltic Sea?
Sure, I am happy to give a few examples. A thorough understanding of marine engineering is essential for designing and constructing offshore wind parks and associated infrastructure. This includes knowledge of the materials and techniques used for offshore construction, as well as the unique environmental conditions that can be encountered in the Baltic Sea. Many of our colleagues have been working on projects across the Baltic Sea for years and decades and hence have this understanding for environmental constraints such as seabed or metocean. As mentioned earlier, those characteristics result in limitations to installation strategies and vessel fleet compared to other geographical regions. Those constraints need to be addressed during early project planning in order to technically and commercially de-risk a project. We furthermore have considerable experience with national and international permitting procedures in the Baltic Sea and believe we can thus contribute to de-risk this critical path activity. Last not least, offshore wind projects are inherently hazardous. We offer a strong focus on health and safety to ensure the safety of workers and the public. KODIAK has great expertise in developing and implementing comprehensive health and safety plans that comply with relevant regulations and standards.
Is the fact that each country has separate laws and regulations a big obstacle for multinational companies in the industry?
The offshore wind industry is a highly regulated industry, with laws and regulations that vary greatly from country to country. These regulations cover everything from the design and construction of offshore wind farms to the environmental impact of these projects. Multinational companies must navigate a complex web of laws and regulations to ensure compliance with local requirements. This can involve working with multiple government agencies, hiring local experts to interpret regulations, and adapting to local cultural norms and business practices. We recommend starting with authority communication at a very early stage since some countries for example require environmental investigations over more than one vegetation period.
A big problem for new markets, such as Poland, may be the lack of appropriate staff, both to work at sea and to handle projects on land. Is KODIAK seeing its chance on the market in this?
Poland is facing quite similar problems like many other countries joining the offshore market. The shortage of skilled workers is a common problem. The fact that this market is very international means Poland competes even more to attract the best personnel for its ambitious energy goals. On the positive side, however, the Polish Baltic Sea is not far away for KODIAK experts. We think that this is a great opportunity to work together very successfully. In KODIAK, we combine the advantages of classic project management consultancies and recruitment agencies. While continuously growing our staff base, we realized that the shortage of skilled experts in our industry requires increasingly more effort to recruit talent. We have therefore significantly enlarged our talent acquisition department. This puts us into a position to continuously grow our staff base but also to set up a pool of highly skilled expert partners. In consequence, we are able to provide our clients with well-matching integrated owner ́s engineering teams for the management of EPC contractors.
Did the markets feel a slowdown due to the war in Ukraine? Or maybe on the contrary - the war accelerated the need to implement energy projects?
The ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the resulting political and economic instability may have indirectly impacted the renewable energy market in the region. For example, the uncertainty created by the conflict and the associated economic sanctions may have made it more difficult for developers to secure financing for renewable energy projects. On the other hand, the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and increase energy security may have accelerated the push for renewable energy projects, including offshore wind parks, in the region. This is especially true for countries that are heavily dependent on imported energy and are seeking to diversify their energy mix.
The second round of farm location permits (and therefore new projects) is ahead of us in Poland. Does KODIAK see a place for himself in planned projects? Are you in contact with developers working in Poland?
Without wanting to give too much detail into our client relationships (which in all cases are of confidential nature anyway), we can confirm we are in contact with several polish developers and end clients. Our long track record of developing, executing and completing projects, particularly in the Baltic Sea make us an ideal partner for polish developers and TSOs. KODIAK is accustomed to helping its clients throughout all project phases and we have spent considerable time over the last 1.5 years to build up local knowledge and partnerships and are in a position to help any client in Poland.
In addition to the already mentioned fields we suggest developers should consider the availability and proximity of the necessary equipment, materials, and services required for project construction, as well as the logistics and transportation options for delivering these items to the project site. In this context, we would also like to point out that it is extremely important to carefully plan and negotiate the procurement of technical assets on the world market. For certain asset classes, such as converters or submarine cables, there are only a small number of capable manufacturers with limited production capacities. It is one of our core competencies to advise and represent our clients in procurement matters.
There is more and more talk in Poland about farms in floating technology. Does it make sense in the near future in the Baltic Sea?
The use of floating technology for offshore wind farms can make sense from water depths of over 60m. Poland has a sea area of around 12.000 km2 with water depth of more than 60 m. So yes, we think that Poland has are significant technical potential in floating wind once the technology has reached a broad market maturity. This does however not mean that such projects automatically make sense commercially. Poland also has a long coastline with relatively shallow water depth and a low water depth gradient, which facilitates the installation of the turbines and enables the use of conventional foundation technology.