Monday, July 23, 2012

Offshore wind power's double good news

Offshore wind turbine
Offshore wind power not only increased by 50% in the last year, but last Thursday saw its biggest ever order for new turbines in the UK.

In a deal worth around £2.3 billion, Dong Energy has ordered 300 giant Siemens wind turbines for use off the coast of Britain. Siemens will design, manufacture, supply, install and service the turbines, while Dong will own and operate the wind farms, and sell the electricity in the UK.

Siemens expects to build many of the turbines in Hull, which means that a planned £210 million factory will probably now be constructed, with the creation of 700 jobs; the rest of the turbines will be built in Denmark.

Siemens' huge, more efficient, new generation designs have a nominal capacity of six megawatts, with rotor blades 75 metres long. Michael Suess, head of its energy division, said strong winds off the coast of the UK allowed them to generate 40% more power than onshore winds.

This increased productivity offsets the higher cost of building them, which is typically at least twice that of onshore wind farms. Seuss said “we are working to further reduce the costs for this environmentally friendly form of power generation”.

So far, Dong's biggest working turbines are Siemens 3.6 MW. But turbines won't stop growing at 6 MW: Siemens is already working on a 10 MW unit.

The total capacity of Dong's order will be 1,800 MW. Dong will install the first two 6 MW units at its Gunfleet Sands wind farm near Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, later in the year. Forty of the turbines are destined for the 240 MW Westermost Rough site, which is near the Humber estuary, and which will be operational in 2014.

Others could go in the Walney wind farm near Morecambe Bay and the planned extensions of the Burbo Bank offshore wind farm beyond the Mersey Estuary.

Siemens and Dong collaborate on several UK offshore wind farms including the one gigawatt London Array off the Thames Estuary, the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

The exact number of turbines that will be commissioned is dependent on decisions being taken in Whitehall. However, if Dong fails to buy the full number cited in the order, it must pay a penalty to Siemens.

Record breaking year for offshore wind

In other good news that signifies the strength of the sector, Europe increased its offshore wind capacity by 50% in the first half of 2012 compared to the year before.

132 new offshore wind turbines with a capacity of 523 MW were fully connected to the grid in that period, compared to 348.1 MW in the same period in 2011, according to new figures released by the European Wind Energy Association.

Moreover, the number of turbines constructed was 95% up on the same period in 2011, at 103 units in five wind farms. This brings the total of operating offshore wind capacity in Europe to 4,336 MW as of 30 June 2012, up from 3,294 MW over the year, supplying electricity equivalent to the requirements of four million homes.

In addition, 13 wind farms are under construction which, when completed, will add an extra 3,762 MW, almost doubling today's amount.

Christian Kjaer, chief executive of EWEA, called the figures a triumph in the face of economic adversity. “Offshore wind power is increasingly attracting investors, including pension funds and other institutional and corporate investors,” Kjaer said in a statement.

“But it would be good to see more activity in southern Europe where jobs, investments and growth are desperately needed."

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