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Offshore wind blogging

by Jerome a Paris Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 10:03:56 AM EST

I spent most of this week at the big conference organised every two years by EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) on offshore wind, which took place in Berlin over this week.

It was a huge event, with close to 2,000 participants and a palpable energy and a sense of - finally - progress.

Now promoted on the front page, on the heels of the apparently excellent news to come from Downing Street on the subject tomorrow. -- Jérôme


The conference was attended by the ministers for energy or senior political representatives  from several countries (the UK, Germany, several Nordic countries - see the link above) and happened at the same time as an important German government meeting that decided to increase offshore tariffs to 14c/kWh, a strongly supportive measure which is likely to be the starting point of a massive wave of investment in the sector in that country. Interestingly, despite that decision, and the excitement it generated, the UK market is still seen as likely to be bigger than the German one over the next 10-15 years, with all other markets being somewhat smaller.


in black: existing wind farms; in blue: those scheduled for construction by 2009

Just over 900MW of offshore wind had been built by end 2006 (compared to 74,000 MW onshore), as shown below, but the plan is to get to 40,000 MW of offshore wind in Europe by 2020, with approximately half in the UK, a quarter in Germany and the rest spread across Europe, mostly in the North Sea (which has good winds and shallow waters).

The industry, like others, has suffered from rapidly increasing costs in recent times, from increased commodity prices, overstretched suppliers and, it must be said, still unresolved technical difficulties with some turbine models that have been withdrawn from the market after encountering technical difficulties. There is a lot of focus on reaching a scale sufficient to rationalise and standardise both manufacturing and offshore installation, after the early years of projects designed on a case-by-case basis.

The  graph below reflects costs prior to commodity increases - but these apply equally to other sectors, so all technologies are more expensive today. The great advantage of wind in that respect, of course, is that once it is built, the cost is fixed: you only have to repay the initial investment, a fixed amount, and not to buy fuel, whether coal, natural gas or oil, whose prices can also increase - and indeed have. And an other overlooked advantage is that wind's marginal cost (the cost of production of an additional kWh) is close to zero, so whenever wind blows, this takes out more expensive producers and reduces prices for everybody. In fact, a Danish study has demonstrated that the resulting savings for that country are now larger than the subsidies provided to wind...

Even if it is unreliable due to its intermittency, wind still has a real effect on both electricity prices as well as on carbon emissions, as each kWh of wind will usually displace a marginal kWh generated by a gas or oil-fired plant.

Offshore wind is still more expensive than onshore (thus the need for additional support in the early years of this new industry), but it responds to the fact that Europe is quite small and densely packed, and some areas will not be able to take more wind turbines, especially the huge models now available, which tower more than a hundred meters above ground. With winds at sea being stronger and more regular, it is the obvious place to put industrial size wind farms, and the hope is that economies of scale will eventually make it cost effective (it is already competitive compared to gas-fired power, given natural gas prices) - and of course, that production that can be scaled to levels that allow the sector to represent a significant fraction of total energy production. The European goal for 2020, 20% of all energy from renewable sources is quite ambitious, as it means that more than 20% of all electricity should come from wind by then.

Another obvious trend was how the industry is now dominated by the large players, in particular on the investor side - the business is essentially run by the big utilities, with a few independent developers remaining (and those that have good prospects are usually take-over targets for the bigger players right now). On the manufacturing side, the presence in the business of GE (currently absent from offshore as they have no appropriate turbine, their 3.6MW model having shown unsufficiently reliable performance), French nuclear energy giant Areva (via Multibrid, still in the early stages of integration), German engineering group Siemens (the dominant player offshore) shows that concentration is well under way, and the fate of Vestas (still the largest wind turbine manufacturer overall, but a small company compared to the big indistrial groups) and Repower (focused on offshore, but whose main shareholder, Indian-based Suzlon, is itself a pure wind player and thus quite small as well) will certainly become a hot issue in the future.

Offshore wind is heavy industry: a nacelle weights 100-300 tons, a blade is 50 meters long, a tower is 80 meter high, etc... Managing 20-30% p.a. growth rates in heavy industry is extremely hard to do - logistics, supply chains and financial commitments are complex, and a wrong bet on where demand will be (on the high or on the low side) can have devastating consequences.

Thus we need to ensure at least a level-playing field, with stable regulation over many years (the opposite of what has happened in the US over the past ten years, with the PTC, the main support mechanism for the industry being renewed haphazardly and for short periods only, leading to collapsing production in some years. The current version of the Energy Bill, as approved by the House, extends the PTC for 4 years, which is the best that has been done this decade, so it's progress.

Offshore wind is less urgent in the US than it is in Europe, as there is still plenty of room onshore to grow (and with a much better wind resource than in Europe) and thus less need to pay the higher cost of offshore, but there could be some projects in areas like the Great Lakes or in the densely populated North-East.

In any case, there is no silver bullet, and wind (and a fortiori offshore wind) is not by any means the only solution. But today, it is the technology with the best prospects to have a real impact on our carbon emissions, at a low economic cost, and with very real positive effects on overall employment, redevelopment of isolated areas, and security of supply.

Wind is free, clean, indigenous, and available today.

:: ::

Earlier wind power diaries:
Don Quixote meets Wall Street - financing wind farms
Energy - some good news (for once) (Wind)
The future of power generation
Wind power: birds, landscapes and availability (I)
My detailed dissection of Robert F. Kennedy Jr 's misguided Op-Ed on Nantucket Wind in the NYT (original title: Robert F. Kennedy Jr is a lying, deceitful, pathetic NIMBY SELL OUT)
Something to take your mind off indictments: Windfarm blogging
Wind power now CHEAPER for US retail consumers
USA to become world leader in wind power in 2005
2005 was a great year for wind power worldwide
Alternative energies: wind power
wind power: debunking the critics
Wind farm kills eagles in 'large numbers'
My job
No technical limitation to wind power penetration
Wind power: some lessons from 2006
5MW with location picture (by PeWi)
Solar Photovoltaic vs Wind (by Laurent Guerby)

Display:


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 05:31:03 PM EST
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 06:01:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/12/7/173351/233/750/419289

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 06:04:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome's version of our week in Berlin hits the high points very coherently.  Offshore Windpower 2007 was especially interesting for me in seeing firsthand the changes in the industry since my last offshore conference, EWEA's first in Brussels in December 2001.  There were about 200-250 people there, and no where near the utility and heavy industry presence of the past years.  The other major difference is that where in Brussels only some small near shore parks had been developed, by this conference there were already several large parks operating, another handful of medium sized parks, and a number of turbines operating which were specifically designed for the offshore market.  Back in Brussels they were merely designs on the drawing board, but now there are major 5 and 6MW test turbines operating, including two from REpower operating in deep water (greater than 40m.) .

I'm sorry i wasn't able to jump into the discussion right away, and i doubt if i can effectively comment until this evening, but i wanted to jump in so there was some notice that the discussion isn't over.  I would like to address some of the technical concerns brought up in the comments below, both on turbines and the technology, and discuss some of the risks and how they're addressed.  i'd also like to address the discussion about wakes and energy replenishment.

We can also discuss why European offshore windpower bears little resemblance to what must take place in the rest of the world.

Und vielen Dank, J.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaďs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 09:32:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking forward to it!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 11:14:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great writing, Jerome, and great pics.  

A question: Are these turbines pulling enough to skew the winds?  I'm remembing a guy in the pub a year ago.  "The shadow!" behind the turbines.  I thought at the time that a turbine sticking up is like a tall tree.  But these farms are large, so is there a danger limit, where planting more will affect the winds, or are we so small compared to the wind that we can't have any tangible effect?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 06:40:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it's too small to have any tangible effect, even at the scales we're talking about in 15 years' time.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 03:04:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you know of any reports, studies, that kind of thing.  It'd be good (for me at least) to have a sense of how far from (or close to) tangible our maximums might get (and to block scare stories before they get too strong--this guy in the pub was really insistent.  "Nuclear," he said, "not wind.  The wind farms create wind shadows," which change the course of the wind to most deleterious effect.)

If Crazy Horse is reading, I'm sure he's heard this one.    

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 06:29:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A wind turbine creates a wind shadow extending about 7 times the diameter of its blade - at which point the wind is such that you can put up another wind turbine. I think that's just nonsense, or FUD.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 06:39:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So if you have to put them at least seven diameters apart how do These work

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 07:01:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Park Effect
Park Effect As we saw in the previous section on the wake effect , each wind turbine will slow down the wind behind it as it pulls energy out of the wind and converts it to electricity. Ideally, we would therefore like to space turbines as far apart as possible in the prevailing wind direction. On the other hand, land use and the cost of connecting wind turbines to the electrical grid would tell us to space them closer together. Park Layout As a rule of thumb, turbines in wind parks are usually spaced somewhere between 5 and 9 rotor diameters apart in the prevailing wind direction, and between 3 and 5 diameters apart in the direction perpendicular to the prevailing winds. In this picture we have placed three rows of five turbines each in a fairly typical pattern. The turbines (the white dots) are placed 7 diameters apart in the prevailing wind direction, and 4 diameters apart in the direction perpendicular to the prevailing winds.


We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 07:13:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you look at Shadow Casting from Wind Turbines from the Danish wind energy association, the only shadow they consider is the light shadow a turbine will project.

Also, the amount of energy extracted by a wind turbine is, as Jérôme points out, negligible compared with the amount of energy carried by the wind. The only effect I can think of is torque/vorticity generation. But if you make a wind turbine field with half the rotors spinning clockwise and half counterclockwise, the effects should cancel out.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 06:44:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wake Effect
Since a wind turbine generates electricity from the energy in the wind, the wind leaving the turbine must have a lower energy content than the wind arriving in front of the turbine.

This follows directly from the fact that energy can neither be created nor consumed. If this sounds confusing, take a look at the definition of energy in the Reference Manual. A wind turbine will always cast a wind shade in the downwind direction. In fact, there will be a wake behind the turbine, i.e. a long trail of wind which is quite turbulent and slowed down, when compared to the wind arriving in front of the turbine. (The expression wake is obviously derived from the wake behind a ship). You can actually see the wake trailing behind a wind turbine, if you add smoke to the air passing through the turbine, as was done in the picture. (This particular turbine was designed to rotate in a counterclockwise direction which is somewhat unusual for modern wind turbines). Wind turbines in parks are usually spaced at least three rotor diameters from one another in order to avoid too much turbulence around the turbines downstream. In the prevailing wind direction turbines are usually spaced even farther apart...



We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 07:18:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I must add to Migeru's notes that there has been a German court case between a wind park and a wind developer, where the former complained that a new farm ahead of theirs would reduce the power theirs generates and thus reduce income.

On a more general note: AFAIK the bulk of wind energy is further above ground, where air moves freely but is still thick, even 60 metre blades atop 150 metre towers would only skirt their downside.

On a hypothetical note: the atmosphere being a nonlinear system, I wouldn't close out climate effects from wind power, it's something to research. But if there is one, I guess it must be comparable to the effect of forest felling or highrise construction. Tho', I'd imagine the effect is dwarfed by the effect of changed thermal conditions (change in surface and air reflection/absorbtion ratio, heat production) -- an effect, hehe, nuclear plant cooling towers have too.

However, that that punter made such a point of wind changing climate is something I heard before, here from engineer colleagues, and I suspect it may come from some nuclear industry propaganda (probably US).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 12:42:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The wake is probably a pain in the ass of people who sail in the area with a good old classy clipper yacht or race ship, but that is the only sensible annoyance that I can think of. Smaller sails are under the wake anyway. Must be the reason the Kennedy's are pissed off by the Cape Cod project :-)

Pierre
by Pierre on Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 08:32:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What limits the ultimate scale of windmills? They're big now, but people thought the DC-3 was big when it was new, too. Why couldn't they be, say, 1000 meters high?
by asdf on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 06:21:02 PM EST
  • one is the obvious one that it gets harder to manipulate the big items (blades, towers). Road transport puts absolute limitations on the size of what can be built onshore (around the 3MW limit); offshore can go further with factories directly on the seaside or near rivers;

  • another is that it is not so obvious that there is any economic gain in building bigger turbines. The economies of scale come from the size of the wind farm, compared to the cost of development, permitting, cable connexion and land use. On land, it made sense, with limited room available, to squeeze more MW in the same spot by using fewer turbines. If you have no land limitations, then you can put more turbines and intermediate sized ones might work just as well;

  • I'm not the best placed to comment on that (maybe Crazy Horse can) but I understand that the strains on the structures from really big turbines become massive, and hard to manage unless you seriously increase costs to reinforce the wind turbines / towers.

So we'll see. There's been talk of 5-10MW turbines offshore, but I've never heard any proposal to go beyond.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 03:13:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From Wiki:  For a given survivable wind speed, the mass of a turbine is approximately proportional to the cube of its blade-length. Wind power intercepted by the turbine is proportional to the square of its blade-length. The maximum blade-length of a turbine is limited by both the strength and stiffness of its material.

This means that after a certain point, mass is increasing relative to the added wind intercepted, limiting economies of scale.  New materials can change the equation, i.e. when carbon fiber is added to the load carrying blade spars.  Bard Engineering uses a very conventional turbine design for its offshore entry, where they simply scaled up standard 3-bladed geared turbines.  Their blades weigh ca. 28 t, the hub alone including the entire pitch system is around 70t, and the full nacelle including power train reaches 280t.

I don't have the REpower 5m weights in front of me right now, but I believe the blades, at approx. the same length, weigh 9000 k less, because they have extensive use of carbon fibre in the load-carrying members, particularly in the spar girders.  They will also be stiffer, meaning less glass as well.  Then correspondingly less steel is needed in the hub, and along key parts of the power train.

Multibrid saves similar weight in their blades by carbon fibre use, though they add some aloft weight by using one less gearbox stage but a correspondingly larger lower speed generator system.  Dinner (which i share cooking duties) calls.

Perhaps the blade, hub, nacelle, and total aloft weights are available on the net.  Comparing and contrasting these machines are perfect examples of the design tradeoffs the design team has to make.

And we haven't even begun to discuss the 2 new second versions of the Enercon 6MW turbines erected in Emden.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaďs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 12:58:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Crazy Horse:
From Wiki:  For a given survivable wind speed, the mass of a turbine is approximately proportional to the cube of its blade-length. Wind power intercepted by the turbine is proportional to the square of its blade-length. The maximum blade-length of a turbine is limited by both the strength and stiffness of its material.
Except that there's no reason why the thickness of a turbine blade needs to be proportional to the length.

Do you have examples of actual blade dimensions and materials for wind turbines of different nominal power?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 03:42:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great breakdown of this industry.

What your wrote about the dominance of large players and the need for ensuring a level playing field vaguely --

Another obvious trend was how the industry is now dominated by the large players, in particular on the investor side - the business is essentially run by the big utilities, with a few independent developers remaining (and those that have good prospects are usually take-over targets for the bigger players right now). ... the fate of Vestas (still the largest wind turbine manufacturer overall, but a small company compared to the big indistrial groups) and Repower (focused on offshore, but whose main shareholder, Indian-based Suzlon, is itself a pure wind player and thus quite small as well) will certainly become a hot issue in the future. <...>

Thus we need to ensure at least a level-playing field, with stable regulation over many years...

<...>

The conference ... happened at the same time as an important German government meeting that decided to increase offshore tariffs to 14c/kWh, a strongly supportive measure which is likely to be the starting point of a massive wave of investment in the sector in that country. Interestingly, despite that decision, and the excitement it generated, the UK market is still seen as likely to be bigger than the German one over the next 10-15 years, with all other markets being somewhat smaller.

-- reminded me of something you wrote in Guillotines, da Vinci, peak oil and discount rates, but I am not sure if the former is really an instance of the latter:

We're all familiar with business cycles: there is growing demand for one product; prices can be very high; people rush to provide the good and offer the suppy that will fulfill that demand; the first comers get excellent prices; as new sellers come in and supply increases, prices goes down and more demand is created; the sector booms and more suppliers poor in; but at some point, prices become too low and new sellers are discouraged, and some of the existing ones drop out until demand can catch up, and prices can go back up.

When products are simple and easy to provide, an equilibrium of sorts can be reached, as supply and demand can ajust fairly quickly to price and other contraints, and the market can be quite stable. But in many industrial sectors, supply is far from being flexible: it can take years to build a new production factory, and thus market conditions may be quite different at the time of the decision to invest and at the moment the capacity acutally becomes available. In such cases, the economic cycles are much more pronounced: if demand grows in a situation of insufficient supply, prices will go up as there simply is no supply to respond to that demand, and thus demand must be restricted, which, for vital product (like electricity) means massive price hikes. Producers will then decide to invest to take advantage of these prices, but it will take a while for them to be ready. Many will do the same, all at a time of apparent undersupply. In the meantime, prices will be extremely high. But at some point that capacity will come on line: the early projects will get excellent prices and a great return on investment, but as the others catch up, you may suddenly get an oversupply and prices may eventually crash brutally, leaving producers with a lot of excess capacity and little to show for their investment - then the sector gets neglected, until demand catches up again, and the whole cycle starts again.

Many such cycles happened in the past, and they would trigger brutal economic crises. Our governments have slowly learnt to manage our economies so as to smooth out such cycles and avoid the worst of the boom-and-bust which is inevitable in pure market driven economies. The way they have done this is by boosting demand during busts (for instance, by providing income to those that lose out in such circumstances, via unemployment insurance or deposit insurance - to avoid banking crashes), and by trying to slow supply during the good times (by limiting money growth and trying to curtial credit at those times to avoid overinvestment). It's never been a perfect science, but by and large, macroeconomic cycles have become a lot less brutal in recent decades than, say, a century ago.

But even today, sectors like electricity or oil are prone to such cycles, due to the long lag time of investment decisions. In the late 70s, there was a boom in refinery building to take advantage of skyhigh gas prices; prices crashed and the oil industry had to nurse a lot of overcapacity for the following 20 years - until recent years when demand caught up and caused brutal price increases (and largely unfair accusations of gouging). Same thing in the power sector in the late 90s, when an investment boom in gas-fired power plants created a glut of power and rock-bottom prices that left a lot of investors (and their financiers) in the dust. Demand is now catching up after several years of little investment, and we again get brownouts or huge price spikes.

Can you describe how investment in and development of the wind industry fits into this analysis of business cycles?  Is it too simplistic to assume that since wind will never "run out", and since there is no international cartel controlling access to wind power, business cycles based on wind energy will have significantly different pattern than those based on fossil fuel energy?  Is the solary energy industry (e.g. using concentrated solar power) is similar to the wind energy industry in these respects?

Eat maguro. Your grandchildren will never know what they missed.

by marco on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 07:46:40 PM EST
Well, I think some things remain: demand for turbines can drop dramatically (be it for changes in regulation, or reaching saturation level in an area), leading to falling production, closures, reducing economies of scale, etc.; there could be cycles due to shortages in materials needed for turbines (steel, carbon fibres, semiconductors for power electronics).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 12:49:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it is the technology with the best prospects to have a real impact on our carbon emissions, at a low economic cost, and with very real positive effects on overall employment, redevelopment of isolated areas, and security of supply.

This reminded me of a recent New York Times article, In Japan, Rural Economies Wane as Cities Thrive.

I imagined that earthquake-prone Japan would not be a very suitable place for large deployment of wind turbines, but it seems that there is some movement in that direction:

A nonprofit organization called Hokkaido Green Fund has spent the last few years building and running large-scale citizens' windmills, which have also been catching on in Europe. The NPO's first windmill, nicknamed "Hamakaze-chan," started operation in September 2001 in the town of Hamatonbestu, Hokkaido, a location buffeted by constant winds.

In subsequent years, the NPO has constructed and started operating five large-scale windmills in northern Japan with the cooperation of local civic groups. Among the locations are Ajigasawa Town in Aomori Prefecture and Ishikari City in Hokkaido.

In 2006, the NPO plans to build five windmills in four prefectures in the Tohoku region of northeast Japan and in the Kanto region, which encompasses the Tokyo metropolitan area. These include facilities in Asahi City in Chiba Prefecture, Kamisu City in Ibaraki Prefecture, and Akita City in Akita Prefecture.

Trends in Japan: Wind Power Takes Off

Northeastern Japan is indeed one of those areas in Japan which are quickly growing old and depopulated (result of Japan's extremely low birthrate plus perennial tendency of young people to move to major urban areas and never come back.)

Japan seriously needs redevelopment of isolated areas.  But could you go into more how wind energy would help contribute to this?

Eat maguro. Your grandchildren will never know what they missed.

by marco on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 08:15:09 PM EST
From a paper describing Japan's first offshore wind project in Setana, small (population 2800) fishing town of Setana in northern Japan:

Construction of the First Offshore Wind Turbines in Setana Port in Japan  (PDF) -- 9-12 Nov. 2004

This report describe the construction of the first offshore wind turbine in Setana Port in Japan.

Owing to closely study and good weather condition, JV constructor could finish WTG construction successfully.  Setana town is well-known as the town which has the first offshore WTG in Japan.

While, this project has only two WTG which has relatively small 600kW rated power (Vestas V47), this experience is very useful for other project in the future.

Summary is as follows.
(1) Careful site survey concerning fishing rights, boats, etc. and feasibility study is very important for realizing project.
(2) Close construction plan considered the site condition such as climate is important.
(3) Dolphin type foundation is practical with considering pile-driving vessel size limitation in Japan.
(4) SEP is useful for small WTG Erection because SEP is not influenced by wave.
(5) Construction schedule needs margin in case of bad weather or unforeseen matter.
(6) Submarine cable placing with Buoy is useful for short length in case of the site condition is allowable.

The authors with taht the First offshore WTG contribute to the growth of Setana town.  And we also expect to develop larger scale of offshore Wind farm in the future with brushing up Setana experience.

Also, on the same project:

Japan for Sustainability - Japan's First Offshore Wind Turbines (2003/07/15)

The town expects these offshore wind turbines to invigorate the region and improve the global environment by producing clean energy.

The wind power market in Japan is quite new compared to Europe, and in fact, it seems that concern about the stability of nuclear power where there are such frequent earthquakes is making wind-generated power more, not less attractive:

M'bishi Heavy Sees Japan Offshore Wind Power Drive (November 8, 2007)

Unlike Europe where several countries have 6-7 percent of their electricity supply generated from wind, the share in Japan is only 0.3 percent or less, Ueda said. <...>

Renewed safety concerns about the nuclear sector following an incident at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world's biggest, when an earthquake struck in July have encouraged the power industry to look into non-nuclear renewable energy sources. <...>

Last year Mitsubishi Heavy took a 16 percent share in newly installed wind turbines of a total 429 megawatts in Japan, lagging behind Spain's Gamesa, General Electric Co and Enercon of Germany, according to Danish research company BTM Consult Aps. (US$1=114.49 Yen) <...>

Mitsubishi Heavy, Japan's biggest wind power turbine maker, has a strong presence in the United States. But unlike its European rivals, it lacks experience in the offshore field. Its business in Japan also lags behind global rivals.

"It will take a while in Japan, probably in 2010 or later," he said, referring to the offshore business here. "But we'd like to make preparation," he said in an interview with Reuters.

Japan has subsidised wind farm construction and set a target to boost wind power to 3 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2010, slightly more than double the capacity last year.



Eat maguro. Your grandchildren will never know what they missed.
by marco on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 08:47:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Talking of Beatrice. Talisman has just sold their interest in the oil platform Beatrice. But not in the connected windfarms. Now if this has any consequences for the future of the project I cannot say (It made sense for Talisman to sell even thought they only(?) got 10mil for it. This is the first platform for Ithaka - the new owner, they do have other interests in the area, unlike Talisman.
It also means the field is too depleted even for Talisman.
As I said, they still run the turbines, and they are also going to decommission the platform. Which is somewhat peculiar, since that cost LOTS of money, but then I read in the papers today, that the government is supporting north sea oil by giving (tax) support for extending platform life and also in the decommissioning phase (cannot find the article, sorry)

When our new uberboss came to visit, I had a chance to speak to one of the top guys and asked about the windfarm. They were very cautious, and not really interested in it from a renewable point of view (I thought), more how to get energy to the aging platforms (which is a big problem for some of the other platforms Talisman operates) - now this was of course a highly unprepared conversation, that quickly moved onto Sudan, which was much more interesting.... (Talisman had interest there, but got sued out of it by US-American NGO's!) The guy was saying though, that they learned a lot about communication from that, which benefits them now in Peru, when dealing with the local's (flying rigs in with helicopters, images of Fitzcarraldo appeared before my eye)

as always, I have not the faintest idea, what I am talking about - I am just regurgitating talisman press releases (which I could post Monday, if anybody is REALLY interested)

by PeWi on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 08:33:32 PM EST
Interest in renewable energy is booming in Ireland with the inclusion of the Greens in the Government.  However our largest company in the sector - Airtricity - is in the process of being sold off. Hopefully this will not lead to the domination of the industry by a small cartel of businesses with a virtual monopoly - who can then set prices at a very high level and stifle the growth of the industry overall.

We don't have any nuclear power and so have one of the largest carbon footprints in the world.  However we also have one of the best wind/wave power resources and hopefully this will make a big contribution to meeting our Kyoto targets and beyond.

Onshore wind farms are hugely controversial because of their impact on the landscape and so the really big contribution will be made by off shore farms.  Small domestic windmills are exempted from needed planning permission which will probably result in a proliferation of one off windmills on farms/larger holding etc.

I'm not sure this is the best way to proceed as it could result in a [political backlash due to neighbours being unhappy with noise/visual impact etc. and I am also not sure whether the national electricity company accepts "net billing" at this point - i.e. whether they will buy and offset any wind power surpluses against electricity bought in by such households on calm days.

Given the natural fluctuations in wind availability, do you know what is the max % contribution that wind can make to overall national electricity generation before it results in brown-outs on calm days and excess production capacity on windy days?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 10:57:18 AM EST

Hopefully this will not lead to the domination of the industry by a small cartel of businesses with a virtual monopoly - who can then set prices at a very high level and stifle the growth of the industry overall.

I'm not sure I understand your point. Airtricity is a developer of wind farms. Developers get a fixed tariff determined by government (whether a feed-in tariff or via green certificates) and have no leeway whatsoever. Even in the regulatory frameworks where markets play a role, that market is driven by how it's set out by the regulator (and there are EU rules about that). Regulations are made to provide higher prices to wind developers, that's the whole point - and have long been opposed by utilities who had to pay for them directly (and charge them on indirectly to users).

Now that utilities are getting into the wind game, they are on both sides of the price formula and don't really care anymore where it's set - one hand gets what the other pays out.


Given the natural fluctuations in wind availability, do you know what is the max % contribution that wind can make to overall national electricity generation before it results in brown-outs on calm days and excess production capacity on windy days?

See the link in my diary above: No technical limitation to wind power penetration

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 02:00:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks.  My point about near monopolies increasing prices is probably more relevant to the cost of putting more capacity out there (which in a fixed regulatory price environment impacts directly on profit margins and the incentive to add capacity.  Thus if there are only a couple of suppliers providing large turbines to the off shore market - they can charge more, reducing operator margins and thus the rate of investment/capacity increase.

Thanks for the link to your excellent diary on the level of fixed conventional capacity that can be displaced by variable wind capacity.  It should be noted that this displacement rate can go up if:

  1. Energy storage technologies are used - Ireland has a large man make lake on top of a mountain (Turlough Hill) which is filled up at times of energy surplus and emptied at times of peak demand.  As we move to hybrid cars with rechargeable batteries these could also be preferentially charged overnight whenever demand is low.  Ditto for buildings designed to be giant storage heaters.

  2. As the market/grid size is increased - e.g. by Ireland building additional inter-connector capacity with Britain. The larger the distribution network/market, the greater the fluctuations which can be absorbed, and the greater the statistical probability that some places will be windy to make up for those places which are not.

I don't know what the economics of transmitting power over very long distances are - it probably doesn't make sense for surplus power on a windy day in Ireland to be transmitted to Poland even if it could displace conventional capacity there, but I would be interested in what the optimum size of such a network/grid would be.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 05:30:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The industry has been concentrated for many years now, and that hasn't really been a problem. There has been a recent influx of large engineering companies (GE buying the old Enron Wind in 2002, Siemens buying Bonus in 2003 and, more recently, Areva and Alstom entering the market, via respectively Multibrid and Ecotecnia), which is a good thing as this provides stronger balance sheets to what were until now farily small companies.

Note that some of the biggest players (notably the market leader, Vestas) are still "pure-plays", companies that do only wind turbines, like Gamesa, Suzlon/Repower or Enercon (that last one making by far the best turbines around, but refusing to sell them offshore because it cannot ensure its usual quality standards yet).

With the utilities coming in force on the buying side, the market is quite competitive and balanced - even though it structurally favors manufacturers right now as demand outstrips supply.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 05:12:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You might want to look at some future point at wind-powered manufacturing for remote locations, where there are no transmission lines.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 01:08:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thus if there are only a couple of suppliers providing large turbines to the off shore market - they can charge more, reducing operator margins and thus the rate of investment/capacity increase.

Would that really make sense for the companies? By charging more, they would earn more on a reduced number of projects, and increase the risk to themselves from small numbers, e.g. big year-to-year changes in the order books when only a few projects are realised each year.

it probably doesn't make sense for surplus power on a windy day in Ireland to be transmitted to Poland even if it could displace conventional capacity there, but I would be interested in what the optimum size of such a network/grid would be.

The Netherlands and Italy are two countries with chronic electricity generation/consumption deficit. Imports come to the former from as far as the Czech Republic and (via Germany) Central France, while imports to virtually all parts of the latter come from France along various routes (including through Germany and he Alps countries from Northern France. I seem to remember that both countries of the Iberian Peninsula also import from France (maybe Torres or Luis de Souza can confirm from Portugal). So I guess half the Ireland-Poland distance is viable.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 01:09:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Britain's wind power revolution

Britain is to embark on a wind power revolution that will produce enough electricity to power every home in the country, ministers will reveal tomorrow.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that, in an astonishing U-turn, the Secretary of State for Business, John Hutton, will announce that he is opening up the seas around Britain to wind farms in the biggest ever renewable energy initiative. Only weeks ago he was resisting a major expansion of renewable sources, on the grounds that it would interfere with plans to build new nuclear power stations.

(...)

Mr Hutton's announcement, which will be made at a conference in Berlin tomorrow, will identify sites in British waters for enough wind farms to produce 25 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2020, in addition to the 8GW already planned - enough to meet the needs of all the country's homes.

(...)

The move will put the country well on the way to achieving a tough EU target of providing 20 per cent of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2020. But just six weeks ago, Mr Hutton's department, far from attempting to meet the target was trying to kill it.

In a confidential memorandum, Gordon Brown was advised that the target was expensive and faced "severe practical difficulties". It went on to warn how it would reduce "the incentives to invest in other technologies like nuclear power".

But the Prime Minister overruled Mr Hutton and insisted in his first green speech as PM last month that the target would be maintained and met. Now the Business Secretary will also announce tomorrow that he is to set up a panel under his chairmanship to work out how to hit it.

(...)

So far two things have held them back: site identification and an assurance that the resulting installations will be connected to the national grid. This move removes the former.



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 05:14:23 AM EST
Wow - sounds like great news.  It seems to follow a long British tradition of resisting EU initiatives to the hilt and then adopting them far more seriously than anybody else.  Gordon Brown seems to be asserting himself and developing a distinctive position on this issue at least.  Do we know why the U-Turn?  Hopefully others will follow.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 06:47:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is just to keep greens happy, whilst the government builds the next generation of nuclear power plants, which is the real Downing Street solution.

The BBC did manage to find someone from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, to complain that lots of off shore wind farms will harm sea birds. There will no doubt be plenty of objectors when the planning applications are submitted, for the sake of the birds and because coastal landowners do not want their view spoiled.

Of course when the environmentalists are objecting to wind farms, the new national planning system for development of national significance will be quietly processing the nuuclear power plant applications.

by Gary J on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 04:02:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Possibly the single most intelligent thing New Labour has done.

Kudos to Brown for a good call on this.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 06:51:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Politics | Huge expansion for wind turbines
There could be more than two offshore wind turbines per mile of UK coastline under plans being set out by ministers.

Business Secretary John Hutton says he wants to open up British seas to allow enough new turbines - up to 7,000 - to power all UK homes by the year 2020.

He acknowledged "it is going to change our coastline", but said the issue of climate change was "not going away".

The thrust of the idea was backed by Tory Alan Duncan: "We're an island nation. There's a lot of wind around."



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 02:57:33 PM EST
Of course it's all a secret plot!  The two turbines per mile are really part of an anti-submarine defense system!

As well as that - why not put nets between the turbines and create one giant Fish farm all around Britain's coast!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 03:41:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The daily mail is probably going to ask for a fence between them to keep the asylum seekers out.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 04:45:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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