Established in Denmark in 2000, A2SEA is a leading provider of transport, installation and servicing to the European offshore wind farm market. Since its inception, the company has installed more than 60 per cent of all offshore wind turbines, and the company has steadily grown to establish a presence with local subsidiaries in both the UK and Germany. The company is 100 per cent owned by DONG Energy, and its current fleet consists of four vessels designed for turbine installation and servicing.
Chief sales officer of A2SEA, Kaj Lindvig, elaborates upon how his company was formed: “Our company was established alongside the emergence of the offshore wind industry itself, when the world’s first large scale offshore wind farm, the Horns Rev 1, was set up off the coast of Denmark. A2SEA’s formation came about to solve the issue for companies that wanted the best method to install their turbines.
“We wanted to help these companies install their turbines amidst the harsh weather conditions of the North Sea. In addition to the tricky conditions that needed to be navigated, another issue that companies were contending with was the restriction on the number of vessels that could be used at a single time. We therefore needed to provide vessels that had a loading capacity for the transportation of multiple turbines, and that could install them relatively quickly before heading back to the port to pick up more. To tackle these issues, A2SEA developed vessels with suspended support legs that would allow them to remain stationary upon the seabed whilst using a crane to install the turbines.”
In its early years, the company was conducting just one to two turbine installation projects a year until 2006, when the wind farm industry really began to take off. Kaj highlights how the market has developed over time: “When this industry first began, there were a lot of factors that were slowing progress down. Germany wanted to put its turbines far from the shoreline, and so the relevant technology to make that a reality had to be developed. Then there was the UK market, which was also slow to take off due to the rules and regulations that were constantly being enforced.
“Once developments in these two countries started to expand, however, we certainly started to see a lot of potential throughout Europe. Countries like Holland and Sweden started to get involved, whereas the more mature markets such as the UK had grown to the point where bigger sites were being created with up to 100 turbines being erected at a time.”
Today, it is the British and German markets that present companies like A2SEA with the greatest opportunities, according to Kaj: “Northern Europe is certainly a long-term growth area, and we expect the UK to remain the biggest market for some time. Germany will pick up in the next two years as well, and we foresee that in the coming few years, these two countries will represent up to 80 per cent of all the world’s offshore wind turbines. Eventually the Southern European countries will become involved too, with the likes of Spain, France and Italy having already registered a great deal of interest in this form of renewable energy.”
The growth of the wind farm market will not be limited strictly to Europe either, with Kaj predicting that there will be mounting interest from further afield. He reveals: “China will certainly be a growing force in a few years. The US is also in an ideal position to take advantage, with such long coastlines and large, coastal cities, or its massive inland lakes.”
Despite the potential in these markets, Kaj remains somewhat cagey about the notion of A2SEA becoming involved in the early stages: “We have been a pioneer once before and we know now just how costly that can be. Our plans are to wait until these new markets mature before we make a move to penetrate them. With that being said, we are not totally against the idea of moving in early – if our shareholders decide to go there then we will gladly become involved, providing we have the frameworks in place that will ensure a stable growth.”
Amongst the shareholders is mother company DONG Energy, a company which has provided a great deal of support to A2SEA in its relatively short history as a business. Kaj explains: “Being part of this larger group gives us a great deal of financial strength and support that we would not otherwise have. We have recently ordered a new vessel, for instance, that required an investment of over $140 million – and without the support of our shareholders, there is no way we would have been able to afford this. Additionally, we also have the knowledge and experience of DONG to help us develop our own installation techniques further.”
Experience is a vital attribute of A2SEA at all levels, and Kaj values it as one of the company’s most valued commodities. He continues: “We have very experienced crew on board the vessels, and our project managers have built up a long track record of industry know-how. These are the values that we have held in the company from the beginning and we want to ensure this is something we use to grow. This knowledge and expertise also allows us to remain flexible, as we know how to overcome the wide variety of challenges that operating in such a market can throw at us.”
Despite still being a relatively young company, A2SEA looks set to become a major force in an up and coming industry, and Kaj remains immensely positive about its future prospects: “There is a lot of growth potential in this market, without a doubt. At present, up to 400 new turbines are being installed every year, 57and within the next decade this number will rise to more than 1000. Whilst it will certainly take time, we have every reason to believe that the wind energy sector will be as big as the oil and gas market is today.”