Monday, 24 October 2011
'The Wind Gives and the Wind Takes'
Alpha Ventus is currently the largest wind farm to be built under open-sea conditions. It is situated in the North Sea off the coast of Germany.
The Spiegel has an informative article on Germany's offshore wind turbine industry and in particular details of the installation of Alpha Ventus. The base elements, which are as tall as buildings, were welded together in Scotland and Norway. The tubes in the seafloor came from Rostock in north eastern Germany, the transformers from Regensburg in Bavaria and the rotor blade from Bremerhaven and Stade, near Hamburg.
Notice anything? As Alex Salmond remarked in his speech at the SNP conference on Saturday, it's a sad state of affairs when Scotland can't afford to develop and produce its own turbines and has to rely upon foreign companies for supplies. The decision to bring Longannet to an abrupt halt is a massive blow to the fledgling offshore renewable industry and a decision which appears to have been taken for political rather than practical reasons.
Germany, like Scotland, has made a bet it can't afford to lose when it decided to at least partially replace nuclear with wind energy. But offshore energy production is an expensive business and each individual plant currently requires about 450 maintenance hours a year - far too much according to Ralf Klooster who is the supervising technician for an Alpha Ventus maintenance team. The amount of time his ship's crew can work in a single stretch will be reduced to 10 hours soon and when that happens two crews will be needed for maintenance. Costs will increase. Says Klooster: "They're not as strict about this in England." I wonder if that also applies to Scotland.
The Spiegel article is written by a journalist who spent a day with Klooster and his team. It certainly gives an insight into the offshore wind turbine industry. A worthwhile read.