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In the 25 years since the first offshore wind power plant was installed, turbine capacity has increased 15 times over. What’s the next step for this revolutionary industry?
Hamburg & Zamudio, April 03, 2017
For close to four decades, Siemens Wind Power and Gamesa have been harnessing the immense power of nature to provide people around the world with clean electricity. Now we have united our wind businesses to shape the energy landscape of tomorrow and to provide lasting value to our many stakeholders.
The Current Situation
The demand for global energy is projected to keep increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 21% per year until 2021. In the worldwide quest for more renewable energy sources, the rapid development of offshore wind power acknowledges it as the future of the sector.
The exponential rise of offshore wind energy can be attributed to a number of factors – including abundance of space and greater, consistent wind resources, which result in an energy output up to 40% higher than onshore. The EU in particular has experienced huge offshore wind power expansion in recent years. 3,230 turbines are now installed and grid-connected, for a cumulative total of 11,027 MW. Including sites under construction, there are 84 offshore wind power plants in 11 European countries. The rest of the world is catching up too – China had a total of 226 offshore wind turbines in 2014, and is speeding up its developments. The US additionally came onboard in 2016 with its first offshore wind farm off Rhode Island. Such global growth has helped drive investment into the sector and interest has led to a decrease in prices by nearly 60% since 2000. [Source: Wind Europe Associations]
Securing the status of offshore wind power as a trusted source of renewable energy has been no simple matter – with many challenges continuing to this day.
When the first offshore wind turbine was installed, in 1991, one thing was clear from the very beginning: reliability and simplicity throughout the whole lifetime of a project is even more important offshore than onshore, because every step of the process is more expensive, technically demanding, and time-consuming. Offshore turbines operate for decades in the harsh marine environment, where conditions create the perfect storm for erosion. Even some of the recognized pros – like high wind speeds – can be a negative factor, because turbines tend to shut down when wind speed exceeds 25 meters per second.
Turbine parts keep increasing in size to accommodate improved durability and greater output. Along with the increase in size of wind power plants as more turbines are installed, this trend asks for a sophisticated logistical setup – from construction to transport to installation. Logistical challenges in general are a greater task offshore, where power plants can sometimes be a dozen miles from shore and difficult to access during bad weather periods, so that even the smallest technical issue – especially those related to service – can amplify costs. Therefore, robust and proven technology is paramount for investor confidence and reliable returns.
As offshore wind parks’ size and distance to shore increase, so do the number of challenges. Comprehensive solutions take the risks into account and help use the full potential of offshore wind power. Having installed the first-ever offshore wind turbines at Vindeby, Denmark, in 1991, as well as some of the largest offshore wind power plants worldwide – such as London Array in UK waters – Siemens is committed to driving the industry’s development and creating a sustainable offshore wind market.
Armed with a quarter of a century of offshore experience and the accompanying research and data this has provided, Siemens continues not just to overcome the challenges facing offshore wind power – but to innovate for greater safety, lowered costs, higher output, and overall customer benefit.
Every action we take is aimed at minimizing our clients’ risks and optimizing their investment. Industrialization plays an important role in helping to slim down the whole process – including manufacturing, transportation, and installation – and so has a positive impact on the cost of electricity. Modifying and improving all aspects concerning offshore wind power makes it possible to reach ambitious goals: From 2025 onward, Siemens offshore wind power projects will be capable of generating electricity at an LCoE level lower than €80 per megawatt-hour – including the cost of accessing the grid.
Fully capitalizing on offshore wind’s potential is made possible with Siemens’ proven geared and direct drive offshore wind turbines. These versatile products are suited for the harshest sites at sea and are widely acknowledged as setting the benchmark for reliability across the industry. With extensive financial services, smart approaches toward grid access, and a flexible, comprehensive service portfolio to the scope, we offer smart offshore wind power solutions along the whole value chain.
To make those proven products even more appropriate in variable conditions, several technical features can be applied to enhance the turbine’s performance. Offshore challenges such as high wind speeds are overcome with features such as the high wind ride through, which, instead of shutting down the offshore turbine down completely, gradually reduces the power output when wind speeds become too high. The power curve upgrade maximizes the energy output by adding aerodynamic accessories to the rotor blades, boosting their performance. These and various other features ensure that offshore wind power plants’ maximum potential is always being realized.
Unprecedented challenges call for unprecedented solutions – nowhere is this truer than in offshore wind power. Which is why Siemens experts have innovated bold new ways to confront the ocean’s rigorous demands, to ensure efficient and reliable wind turbine service and keep lowering costs. Discover how great ideas turn into great benefits.
It was Andres Chacon who decided that when it came to working on increasingly distant and challenging offshore sites, the right ships simply didn’t exist – so he had the service operation vessels (SOV) built. The SOVs keep the technicians safer in an inherently challenging environment and allow them to spend more of their time where it counts – on the turbines.
When installing first-ever offshore wind power plant, Vindeby, in 1991, it was crucial to develop a protective system that could last as long as the turbines themselves. Jens Thomsen and his team made use of metallization together with heavy-duty paint and de-humidifiers to keep the corrosion level down and shield turbines against even the roughest weather conditions.
Transporting large offshore wind turbine components presents a number of challenges. Thomas Mortensen and Morten Johansen’s teams responded with a tailor-made logistics solution.
Together with 150 colleagues, Henrik Pedersen and his team monitor almost 10,000 turbines around the clock at the remote diagnostic center to prevent potential breakdowns.
Capacity 630 MW, 175 turbines total
Built in 2013
The world’s largest wind power plant
Capacity 288 MW, 80 turbines total
Built in 2015
Contract including supply of turbines, service, and grid connection
Capacity 600 MW, 150 turbines total
Installed in 2016
World’s largest project-financed offshore wind power plant to date