Starting the construction of an operations and maintenance base to serve offshore wind farms is an undertaking preceded by a months-long preparatory process. Already at this stage it is necessary to hire contractors for the work necessary to carry out the investment. In the case of preparation for the construction of PGE Baltica operations and maintenance base in Ustka, the company has engaged Polish entities, which shows that domestic companies can successfully join the development of offshore wind energy in Poland.

The PGE Baltica base will be built in the western part of the Port of Ustka on an area covering a part of a former fish processing plant. The service center is to serve the ongoing monitoring of PGE’s wind farms in the Baltic, as well as planned and ad hoc repairs of offshore wind turbine components. Units with service crews and spare parts will depart from here. PGE Baltica also wants to build an Offshore Wind Energy Competence Center on the site, where, among other things, future service technicians will be trained.

The key to good investment preparation

Before selecting and purchasing a suitable property with access to the wharf, the investor checks whether the location is best for the realization of a service base. However, before construction work begins, it is necessary to plan all the necessary analyses and studies of the land intended for the future service base, make an inventory of the site, carefully assess the possibilities of the selected location in terms of the tasks to be fulfilled, so as to make optimal use of the available real estate area. Along the way, the investor announces purchasing procedures and selects the companies that will carry out the project for him – from preparatory and analytical work, through a contractor for the conceptual design and site development project, to a contractor for a construction project, contract engineer and general contractor, who, after obtaining a building permit, will begin the actual construction work.

Research for efficient navigation and operational capabilities

The preparation of a service port construction project must be preceded by thorough studies conducted throughout the port area. Among other things, it is necessary to analyze the maritime access infrastructure, which will accurately determine the parameters prevailing on the approach to the port and inside the port channel, which directly affects the navigational capabilities of the port in question. At the port wharves, there will be a permanent vigilance of several vessels, which sometimes have to sail to the wind farm area in case of emergencies. It is in terms of efficient navigation and operational capabilities that the port must be properly prepared. This research work is being carried out for PGE Baltica by the Institute of Hydro-Engineering of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Gdansk.

– Among other things that scientists are studying for us are wave action, changes in water levels inside the port, sea currents and associated sediment transport. They check how local natural conditions will affect the designed hydrotechnical facilities. They determine the parameters necessary to plan maintenance and investment works that improve the conditions in a given port and make it possible to increase the availability of given infrastructure – says Tomasz Wiśniewski, senior project manager for port investments at PGE Baltica. – Among other things, the possibility of building wave absorbers or breakwaters is being investigated. These could reduce wave action inside the entire port channel and that, in turn, could allow for an increase in the potential related to the number of berths for service vessels in the port and safe navigation inside the port channel during adverse weather conditions at sea. The effect of these tasks will influence the final scope and shape of the operations and service base project – adds Tomasz Wiśniewski.

Specialists will be trained in the building of the old fishing net factory

A comprehensive inventory of the site’s existing condition, consisting of more than a dozen volumes of documentation, was prepared for PGE Baltica by Antea Polska S.A., a company that specializes in engineering and environmental consulting. The facilities to be inventoried included buildings and typical port elements, including wharves, former production halls, and buildings of the so-called old and new fishing net factories. The result of the inventory will be documentation that will allow for necessary maintenance activities and implementation of preparatory work.

– The contractor has carried out soil surveys, which have shown no contamination of the site. He has also gathered the documentation necessary to apply for a permit to begin work on the objects that need to be demolished. At the same time, it should be noted that the demolition will not include the building of the old grid plant. In this large, very characteristic, historic building we plan to eventually create a center of competence where new solutions for offshore wind energy will be tested. Specialists for the operation of offshore wind farms will also be trained there – says Maciej Bałchanowski, construction expert at PGE Baltica.

Best concept selected

Another entity performing services for PGE Baltica is the Wuprohyd design office from Gdynia, which specializes in designing port infrastructure and hydrotechnical structures. The contractor will carry out a design of a complex of office and welfare facilities and a spare parts warehouse, together with land development and complete above- and underground infrastructure (including electrical, telecommunications and sanitary installations), which are all elements of the future operations and maintenance base. The project team will also conduct, among other things, studies on land, in water and in laboratories, which are expected to allow the adaptation and reconstruction of wharves for the base. The result of the multi-variant analyses will be a set of design documentation that will enable the initiation of a tender procedure for the selection of a general construction contractor.

Out of three variants of the land development concept, taking into account the division of the property into various functions, the company has chosen the one that allows the port area to be best adapted to the needs of servicing offshore wind farms, while at the same time fitting in with the port’s current development and its touristic character. Construction work is scheduled to begin in 2024.

The port will get a new look

– The design work is being carried out in stages. We have made a detailed analysis of the possibilities of developing our property. We have determined the areas intended for particular functions along with their key parameters. On this basis, several variants for the use of available space were created. After conducting a multi-criteria analysis, we selected what we consider to be the optimal plan for the development of the land and the layout of the cubature facilities – explains Ernest Lewandowski, port investment expert at PGE Baltica. – We are currently at the stage of developing documentation that will form the basis for the construction project. In addition, the contractor is preparing for us, among other things, a description of the technical parameters of the equipment necessary to fully utilize the potential of the operations and maintenance base – he enumerates.

The port area in the western part of Ustka will change diametrically over the next few years. The investment in the service and operations base will revitalize the port area, which has not been used for the past several decades. A modern infrastructure necessary for the efficient operation of the service center will be built on the site of the former fishing company. PGE Baltica has hired Polish companies that proved to be the best in tendering procedures to prepare its construction. Subsequent tenders will select, among others, a general contractor. This will be another opportunity for companies from the region to participate in the construction of one of the offshore wind farm projects.