by Jerome a Paris
Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 06:27:44 AM EST
On Friday [7 June], I was able to participate in a trip around the German North Sea, to visit all the offshore wind farms currently under construction or in operation.
This was organised by wab - windenergie agentur Bremen - which has been organising in June one of the nicest conferences of the year.
Plenty of pictures below the fold.
The trip was organised in a fast (40 knots), large catamaran, with about 300-400 people on board - participants to the conference as well as workers in the industry and their families, and a lot of journalists. (If German readers can post articles when they see them, that would be nice. I was interviewed in French by Arte, this should play in September.)
The first highlight of the tour was actually not a wind farm, but the Helgoland island, with its famous red cliffs:
The island is actually relevant to the industry, as several projects (including the two we visited next, see below) are installing their operations bases there - so there is quite a bit of construction going on on the island right now, with new facilities (quays, storage facilities, etc.) being built and quite a few people working there. All three nearby projects, Meerwind (Blackstone), NordSeeOst (RWE) and Amsrumbank (E.On) will have bases there and the three have actually decided to cooperate to have common installations to a good extent.
This makes sense as these projects are much closer to this island than to any other land-based port and this will make for much shorter trips to the wind farms. And indeed, we arrived shortly to Meerwind, the Blackstone project which I worked on in 2011. It's a 288 MW project which will use Siemens 3.6 MW turbines.
Not a lot to see, as so far only foundations and transition pieces have been installed, but work is on track. This project uses "monopiles" (i.e. a large steel tube hammered into the subsoil) as foundations, and these just edge out of the water. A "transition piece" is then fixed on top of this (that's the yellow bit): it includes the access facilities - landing for boats, stairs to get up to the top, platform and the flange to connect the tower of the wind turbine. Most of the foundations and transition pieces have been installed on the project and turbine installation should start a bit later this year.
Just next to it is the NordSeeOst project, which uses a different type of foundation, the "jacket", which is a sort of lattice structure, fixed to the subsoil via four much smaller steel tubes. This is a structure commonly used in the oil industry and it is expected to be used for the deeper projects or those using heavier turbines. In this case, it will use the Repower 6M turbine, probably the heaviest in the market today. With 48 turbines, this will be a 295 MW project (the turbines are rated at 6.15 MW).
The picture is not great, but we did not come very close as work was under way on parts of the site and security rules are quite strict on navigation. Colleagues may have higher resolution pictures from "real" cameras and I'll post these if I get them.
After another bit of navigation in calm waters (ideal for work at sea, and indeed we saw a lot of activity throughout the day), we reached Globaltech 1, another project financed in 2011 (I worked on it when I was in my previous job, but not when the financing was signed). It is also at the foundation stage of construction. It will comprise 80 Areva 5000 (5 MW) turbines (400 MW total). GT1 is run by SWM, the Munich municipal utility, in consortium with several other utilities and investors.
From the outside they looks like monopiles, but it's actually another type of foundation, tripods, which look like this out of the water:
Work was under way on the substation of the project (the platform which collects all the power from the turbines and converts it to a higher voltage to send it to shore via a larger cable), as you can see on the right side of the photo below - the platform is on the left and a work vessel is "jacked up" next to it:
In Germany, each project has its own sub-station but then connects to larger offshore substations owned by the grid operator, which is responsible by law for the connection back to land. Delays were announced in the schedule for construction of these major offshore substations, and this has in turn delayed some projects. But a new law voted this winter has clarified responsibilities and should allow for a more organised overall construction schedule for the whole industry.
Next to GT1 is the largest offshore producer in Germany for now, the infamous BARD 1 project. BARD was a developer of offshore projects which decided to manufacture its own turbines and do everything in-house. It managed to obtain a financing for the project from the German/Italian bank Unicredit, but has not been able to sustain its business and the bank is now in charge of completing the project. The project has suffered through a couple of years of delays, but is now well-advanced, with its 80 foundations in place, 65 turbines installed and 47 officially connected to the grid (on the picture below you can see both the project's substation and the main substation owned by the grid operator).
A lot of construction activity was going on at the site, with at least 5 major construction vessels involved, and hopefully the project can be completed this year.
Unfortunately, the turbine (a 5 MW model) has been discontinued and the very specific tri-pile foundation designed is also unlikely to be replicated (you can see pictures of the foundations while they were manufactured in one of my earlier posts).
Next in line in our visit was the Borkum West project (financed in late 2010, I also worked on it in my previous job but not at the close of financing), a 200 MW project (40 Areva 5000 turbines) developed by Trianel, a collective of utilities. It is also at the foundation installation stage (using tripods like GT1) and here is a picture of its substation:
It is located just next to Alpha Ventus, the first project built in Germany - designed as a test site and using two different turbine types (Repower 5M and Areva 5000, both 5 MW turbines)
Excellent production data has come out of the site, which also hosts the FINO1 met mast whose wind measurements have been used as a reference to calculate the wind potential of all the sites in the wider area (you can see the metmast slightly on the left of the picture).
The final site to be visited is the Riffgat project, nearer to shore (and picture at the top of this diary), a smaller 30-turbine project using Siemens 3.6 MW turbines developed by EWE, one of the northern regional utilities. As you can see, it has already begun to erect the turbines and work has been progressing well. I don't know how much this is visible, but the turbine under work has one blade installed and they were preparing to install a second one.
It was a long day at sea, but in perfect weather it was an amazing experience to be able to see all the developments under way in the sector in the country. And within a few months, the industry will suddenly change from being a nice idea to becoming a tangible reality, with more than 1 GW of capacity installed and a lot of people directly involved.
One more project was financed in the first quarter of this year (Butendiek) and a couple others are in the process to get there in the coming months, so there will be more projects getting built in the coming years and more work for many of us...