XceCo generates excitement as new offshore wind management model is unveiled in Grimsby

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 10 May 2017

A NEW name backed up with a wealth of experience garnered on Grimsby’s first offshore wind farm has entered the renewable energy industry.

Asset management specialist XceCo has launched in the town, carving out a niche created with the sell-off by Centrica of Lynn and Inner Dowsing to two investment organisations. 

While Siemens has been brought in on a 10 year terms as operations and maintenance provider, XceCo – led by former Centrica head of operations and maintenance Tony Lyon – will look after governance, acting as the eyes and ears for the financial institutions while picking up the balance of plant that isn’t stationed off the Lincolnshire coast.

The dual wind farm, built in 2008, was sold to Green Investment Bank and BlackRock last year, and they took up the option on the North Quay base this year.   

Mr Lyon, who has Bailey Bradley as operations director, said: “The new owners came in and bought the business – the wind farm – last year, and brought in Siemens, with full scope for servicing and control. We quickly realised there was a need for asset management there, the owners went out to tender, and as a little group we thought we would have a go.

“We were well placed to be able to do that, it minimises the risk of change, we knew the processes and practices, and we know Siemens very well.” 

For Mr Lyon, who has 40 years experience in the power industry, dating back to the Central Electricity Generating Board and the 2,000 MW Fiddlers Ferry Power Station in Warrington, Cheshire, it is a case of “coming out of Centrica to the same office and same desk”. 

“Our role here is governance,” he said. “It is ensuring the right standard, the right quality and the right health and safety processes. “We have also got the base, we are duty holder for the base, supported by facilities management.

“Bailey and I are directors then we have several providers, and an engineering manager with a specialism offshore, then a finance function and a secretariat.”

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XceCo has won a five year contract, with Mr Lyon pleased to have had experience of the out-of-warranty time with Lynn and Inner Dowsing, and being responsible for procuring services.

“It is a new model, a first for the UK, when a wind farm has been wholly owned by financial organisations,” Mr Lyon said, having arrived in the area in 2006 as generation manager at Centrica’s South Humber Bank gas-fired power station. “Most of the time the investor partners up with minority stakeholder from the big six, this is the first time where it doesn’t have it. 

“I can see the model changing with more and more investment coming in, and new wind farms starting up. Predominantly it will be financial institutions backing them, and I can see the asset management model expanding.

“We are perfectly placed and one of, if not the first, in the wind industry, and we are not restricted to Grimsby.” 

A campaign is currently underway by Siemens and Rotos 360 using a service operation vessel out of Immingham to carry out blade repair using a platform from the vessel, rather than abseil-type rope access from the nacelles.

Mr Bradley added: “Lynn and Inner Dowsing has delivered a number of firsts and this is another. It was one of the first offshore wind farms, the first of its scale for sure, the first in terms of project financing in terms of the model pursued by Centrica, and the first Centrica built as a partner to it.”

It is also “a guinea pig” according to Mr Lyon, with lessons being learned and now implemented across the industry, helping to bring the cost down - be it sub-sea grout or leading edge blade wear. 

Dong Energy is taking over operations and maintenance of the Lincs wind farm - currently the biggest operated out of Grimsby - with final handover anticipated next February, after that too was bought by Green Investment Bank.

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