Friday, August 20, 2010

Wind Power In Stormy Waters

Offshore Wind Turbine Farms: Ambitious and Beautiful.

There is nothing like the promise of readily available and bountiful energy in our resource-strapped world. Based on data determining that average wind speeds at sea are higher than on land, the modern offshore wind farms promise to be exceptionally energy efficient. When the weather is calm they also look fetchingly beautiful:

Energy, Heavy Machinery, Construction, Architecture

But when the seas are rough, the graceful structure is put to the test, and it's not a fact that every turbine will survive:
Energy, Heavy Machinery, Construction, Architecture

The Horn’s Reef project, located 14 kilometres off Denmark’s West coast in the North Sea, is located in some of Europe’s roughest waters.
“There are other offshore wind parks in the world but everybody agrees that Horn’s Reef is the first ’real’ offshore wind park because of its size and its placement in the North Sea. So far, all other offshore parks have been placed close to land in protected waters“ says project manager Jens Bonefeldt. “The North Sea is considered to be one of the roughest stretches of water in the world.”

Energy, Heavy Machinery, Construction, Architecture

Floating wind turbine.
It is now possible to build offshore wind parks
at sea depths of 200-300 meters.

8 to 10 meter waves are expected at the site
(not counting nasty "global warming" storm surprises)

Energy, Heavy Machinery, Construction, Architecture

Energy, Heavy Machinery, Construction, Architecture

 One of the turbines failed in spectacular fashion following a lightning strike, the blades disintegrated, hurling debris at speeds approaching 200 mph.
- A whole blade weighing over a tonne became detached from the VESTAS turbine.
- The pictures above show a spectacular failure of a turbine during a storm in Lichtenau, Germany (Thanks to Wilfred Heck for supplying these photographs).

Many Hollywood thrillers show a helicopter chase through the forest of such giant windmills. The havoc produced by the flying blades is usually quite spectacular...
Huge wind farms may be a dream come true, but it's also a challenge to designers and engineers, demanding a combination of experience and new thinking.

Energy, Heavy Machinery, Construction, Architecture


In 2002 the world’s largest offshore wind farm was constructed at the Danish west coast. The Horns Rev wind farm is sited 14-20 km into the North Sea, west of BlĂ„vands Huk, and represents the first phase in the Danish Government’s ambitious plan - to have wind turbines with a total capacity of 4000 MW in Danish waters before 2030.

Thanks to Gunnar Britse, photographer (all rights reserved), we can witness the grandiose operation of setting up a forest of windmills at various Dutch (and Swedish) offshore locations:

"The world’s first major offshore wind power plant has since December 2002 produced enough energy to run 150,000 Danish households. Eighty 2.0 MW turbines from the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturer Vestas are sited across an area of 20 sq. km." (source) With the Horns Rev project it will be possible to determine whether or not the Danish Government’s ambitious energy plan is feasible. And whether or not the long-bladed Goliaths will survive the harshest of North Sea storms.
Energy, Heavy Machinery, Construction, Architecture

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