A brisk, late November morning in Northern Germany provided backdrop to a ceremony held to mark completion of the structural supports of the factory slated to secure Siemens Wind Power’s position as purveyor of next generation wind turbine technologies.
Behind the ceremony, a host of developments from Siemens are coming together to enable the company to cut costs and improve efficiency of its wind power business, which already leads in offshore wind turbine construction.
Scheduled for completion by mid-2017, the Cuxhaven, Germany, wind turbine factory will provide Siemens with a manufacturing hub for its latest and forthcoming generations of large direct drive offshore wind turbine nacelles.
In the nearest timeframe, factory operations will revolve around the direct drive, 7-MW capacity D7 platform. The production facility will undertake serial production of generators, hubs and nacelle back-ends, and final assembly of these components to form complete D7 nacelles.
In time, even larger capacity machines will eventually flow from the factory’s production lines. Siemens’ Carsten-Sünnke Berendsen, who is heading the Cuxhaven project, told Renewable Energy World: “The Cuxhaven plant is our central manufacturing base for all large direct drive nacelles of our offshore wind turbines. The [8-MW] SWT-8.0-154 is an enhanced version of our models SWT-6.0-154 and SWT-7.0-154 and so its nacelle will definitely be assembled in the new factory.”
Motivating the choice of location and hinting at the ultimate, global destinations for products of the factory, Berendsen said: “Siemens always invests where its markets are. Since the UK and Germany are the largest offshore wind markets, it shows our consistence that nacelles are produced in Cuxhaven and the blades where manufactured in Hull, England. Both components will be shipped within and beyond Europe to our projects.”
Covering some 170,000 square meters of land, the factory lies adjacent to Cuxhaven harbor. Positioning is key to the facility’s design — allowing heavy nacelle components to be loaded directly onto sea-going transportation vessels and avoiding costly, more complex ground transportation.
Remarking on what the Cuxhaven plant represents for Siemens Wind’s position within the wind market going forward, Berendsen said: “Its strategic significance can be seen in our new logistic concept: sea transportation and Roll on-Roll off-loading (Ro-Ro) are both key in this concept. We have launched a specialized transport vessel that can be loaded directly from the production [facilities] via a ramp.”
That vessel is Siemens Wind Power’s first customized turbine transport vessel, the 141m long Rotra Vente, and it’s pitched as a key component to facilitate cost-effective transportation of the large direct drive nacelles between Cuxhaven and destination harbors in the North and Baltic Seas.
Berendsen explained: “Due to their weights and dimensions, the current and future turbine generations are not suitable for road transportation anymore. That was one of the reasons why we decided to open a factory at a harbor site. At Cuxhaven, we found the best conditions to fulfil our requirements.”
The Rotra Vente in the harbor of Esbjerg, Denmark. The customized transport vessel allows for nacelles to be rolled on and off the deck, avoiding the need for crane operations. Credit: Siemens.
A sister ship to the Rotra Vente — a transporter for towers and blades — is also under construction. With it, cost-effective logistics will extend to transportation of blades from Siemens’ production facilities in Hull or Aalborg, Denmark, to harbors chosen for delivery.
Construction of Cuxhaven factory seen from the air. Credit: Siemens.
The progressive character of the factory is evident beyond its use of harbor-based transportation. Indeed, state-of-the-art processing methods are planned for within the factory itself.
“The Cuxhaven plant will be a digital factory,” Berendsen said. “We will implement the industry 4.0 approach wherever possible.”
Being constructed on a greenfield site, Berendsen explained, has allowed for freedom in planning out an innovative production flow.
“All processes [including, storage, supply chain and assembly] will be coordinated by modern digital production systems, such as Siemens Production System (SPS), supporting throughput time and cost position,” he said. “A modern industry park concept allows to optimize the supply chain with suppliers located close to the factory.”
Siemens could not comment on a figure relating to cost reduction through the manufacturing and transportation processes of Cuxhaven, however the company have stated: “When our new factories in Hull and Cuxhaven become fully operational, and both Ro-Ro vessels are in service as interconnection of our manufacturing and installation network, we expect savings of 15-20 percent in logistics costs compared to current transport procedures. This is another important contributor reducing the cost of electricity from offshore wind.”
A healthy pipeline of projects for Siemens’ D7 wind turbines is in place already. Berendsen highlighted: “There’s a couple of orders that show the tremendous success of our large direct drive offshore wind turbines — including the 588 MW Beatrice offshore wind project in the UK and 714 MW East Anglia ONE project at the British east coast. Also German Arkona wind power plant in the Baltic Sea and the floating Hywind Scotland project will be equipped with these turbines.”
Nacelles produced at the Cuxhaven factory are destined to join Siemens Wind Power’s offshore fleet. Pictured is a SWT-6.0-154 turbine. Credit: Siemens.
In related news, Siemens recently inaugurated its new rotor blade factory for offshore wind turbines in Hull. The factory, which is located at Alexandra Docks, has completed the first 75-meter-long blades. Shipping to the first offshore wind project, Race Bank, is expected early next year.