A huge effort is currently under way to make the next generation of offshore wind farms more profitable than those that have gone before. And with the potential for 40GW of wind turbines to be deployed off Europe’s shores alone in the next 10 years, a great deal of attention is being focused on the design and installation of new wind farms.
New generations of offshore wind turbine will need to operate more reliably than their older onshore counterparts to maximise the energy generation opportunities, and reduce maintenance costs. A recent study published by T.A. Cook reveals some significant insights and opportunities.
In the long term it makes sense for there to be a focus on the wind turbine - and wind farm - design to improve reliability. But this misses a critical issue, though: what could the industry do to improve existing wind farms, or those under construction? And is changing turbine design the only improvement that can work in practice?
Operations and maintenance (O&M) is one of the great ‘unspokens’ of the offshore wind industry. At a major event such as EWEA 2011 only one session of 39 looked at operations and maintenance; and this itself focused on the design of turbines to reduce maintenance.
But what about operational strategies to improve maintenance activity? Sharing experiences of what works and what doesn’t in practice? No discussion at all, seemingly.
In part, this is because data is hard to come by. In its publication The Economics of Wind Energy, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) admits that its own calculations of O&M costs for offshore wind farms are "subject to considerable uncertainty".
So what is the scale of the problem with operational expenditure at the moment and what underlies it? Will it be enough to simply redesign the wind turbines?
The full article will appear in the Mar/Apr issue, out soon. Click here for a free subscription.