Wind renewable technology innovation management
Wind renewable energy technology has continued to evolve with new innovations. These have been driven by mounting global competitions, plus the needs to improve the ease and cost of turbine manufacturing and transportation. There are also requirements to optimise wind power generation at lower wind speeds. There have also been increasingly demanding grid codes to deal with the rising penetration of variable renewable sources.
The wind turbine manufacturers have been developing new advance materials and designs, as well as improved O&M regimes. In particular, there are new developments for wind turbine blade tips, which normally have to undergo much wear and tear. To reduce the logistical challenges and costs of transport, plus to increase the use of local labour, new innovations have included two-part blades, nesting towers and portable concrete manufacturing facilities for tower construction. A good turbine example is that Siemens had unveiled a low-noise blade add-on, inspired by the silent flight of owls. Vestas has also been developing its new four-rotor concept wind turbine, which aims to reduce transportation requirements and to minimise structural costs.
The digitalisation of wind turbines has been continuing, so as to provide better quality data and access to data. These are particularly important for wind turbine siting and design, performance management, plus the trading and balancing of wind power output. A good digital example is that GE has introduced new software applications for its advanced digital wind ecosystem. Vestas and Envision both have also launched advanced data analytics packages. Goldwind has introduced a 3 MW digital wind platform with smart turbine controls.
To boost wind energy outputs, many wind companies have been adopting the general move towards building larger wind turbine machines. These have included longer blades, higher hub heights and, in particular, larger rotor sizes. These changes have driven the wind capacity factors significantly higher within given wind resource regimes. These have helped to create further opportunities in the established wind markets as well as new ones. A good example is that the average capacity factors for all operational wind farms in Brazil have increased by 2% from some 38% in 2015 to over 40% in 2016, as new wind projects with better technology were brought online.
Globally, various wind turbine manufacturers have also been racing to launch different larger wind turbines. These have included Encrcon, GE, Nordex and Scnvion for onshore plus Siemens and MHI Vestas for offshore. Increasingly, leading manufacturers have been developing new wind turbine options based on tested and well-proven existing platforms. These have enabled them to more
Wind renewable energy growth management 61 easily develop new wind turbines for specific markets, whilst also minimising development risks and costs.
For offshore wind facilities, the needs to reduce costs through scale and standardisation have driven up the sizes of wind turbines as well as of wind farm projects. Vestas, Siemens, GE and Adwen have all introduced large 8 MW wind turbines for the offshore market. MHI Vestas Offshore Wind has also unveiled an up-rated version of its 8 MW turbine that could achieve a rated power output of 9 MW. The new larger wind turbine’s blade swept area will be larger than the London Eye Ferris wheel.
The offshore wind industry has also to meet different technical and logistic challenges from the onshore wind market. Siemens was the leading offshore turbine supplier, accounting for nearly 65% of new added capacities. It was followed by Shanghai Electric Wind Power Equipment or Sewind from China. DONG Energy from Denmark has become the largest offshore wind owner, accounting for more than 16% of cumulative offshore installations in Europe. It was followed by Vattenfall, E.ON and Innogy.
New offshore wind installations have continued to move farther out and into deeper waters. In addition, the average size of offshore wind projects under construction has continued to rise. New wind platform substructures have also been evolving to help to reduce project costs and logistical challenges. Although the majority of turbines installed off Europe have continued to stand on monopiles and jackets, a wide array of other foundation options are also being developed. A good example is that Siemens has been developing a hybrid gravity-jacket concept for offshore wind turbine platforms.
The offshore wind manufacturers have also been continuing to develop floating wind turbines on platforms with anchoring by mooring systems. These have been developed based on the deep water oil and gas drilling rigs plus floating LNG platforms being used in the oil and gas industries globally. A good example is that Japan has added a floating wind turbine platform to its demonstration project off the coast of Fukushima. This has made it to be the largest floating wind project to date. Other projects using floating wind platforms have also been announced or granted consent in various countries. These included projects in South Korea, Ireland, Japan, Scotland, etc.
There have also been new digital system innovations for wind energy. A good example is the DONG Energy’s advanced BEACon wind radar system, which has been developed by SmartWind Technologies from the USA. The advanced digital radar system will provide minute-by-minute three-dimensional data of the wind flows through a wind farm over a stretch of sea. The radar can also provide valuable insights on the siting, design and operation of future offshore wind projects (CleanTechnica, Wind Power Radar System, 2016).
There have also been interesting new innovations in the offshore wind farm logistic areas. A good example is that Siemens has launched a new customised transport vessel which would allow for rolling nacelles on and off deck. This would help to minimise the needs for expensive crane operations which should help to reduce logistic costs and lower the total project costs.
Offshore wind renewable market growth management
The economics of offshore wind power have improved far faster than experts have previously forecasted. The offshore wind costs have been driven down rapidly by a combination of factors. These have included the improved economies of scale achieved by larger wind turbines and larger wind projects. The increased competition amongst developers and rising expertise has also help to reduce operating costs. The significant technical improvements with turbines, installation processes, grid connection, logistics plus operational and maintenance strategies (O&M) have all helped to reduce costs and improve competitiveness. In addition, the lower costs of capital which have resulted from the general perception of reduced risks of wind renewable investments in financial markets have helped to reduce the overall new wind renewable project costs.
There have also been good international co-operations on offshore wind projects across country boundaries. A good example is that in June 2016 nine European countries have agreed to co-operate on new offshore wind power developments through joint tenders. Eleven wind companies also signed an open letter calling for a stable legal framework for wind renewable energy growths. They are also aiming to develop various innovations so they can produce offshore wind power more cheaply than coal-fired power generation within the next few years. Looking ahead, they are also aiming to reduce offshore wind costs to less than EUR80 per MWh or USD84 per MWh per project, by 2025.
A good example of international business co-operation on offshore wind is that Shell and CoensHexicon Co. Ltd have signed an agreement to develop, construct and operate a floating offshore wind farm in South Korea. These are in follow-up to the successful development and deployments of various offshore floating oil rigs and floating LNG platforms which have been developed and applied by leading oil and gas energy companies, especially Shell.
Initial project developments have started in early 2019 for the new floating wind farm which will be located circa 40 km off the coast of Ulsan. The two companies have already formed a project company in Busan, called TwinWind Development Co. Ltd. They have successfully obtained a wind lease for the offshore Ulsan region. The collaboration of CoensHexicon with Shell will help to bring together a wealth of complementary skills on offshore wind and offshore resource developments. These should help them to develop and operate a large innovative floating wind farm successfully. The project will include in South Korea serial manufacturing of the patented multi-turbine foundation design developed by Hexicon in Sweden. In addition, Shell’s extensive global experience in operating offshore oil rigs and floating LNG platforms in different locations globally will be invaluable.
Swedish Hexicon and South Korean COENS have formed the CoensHexicon joint venture company in year 2018 with an aim to transfer the Hexicon floating wind platform technology to Korea and offer serial production of Korea-manufactured units for new floating wind platforms in the local and international markets. The parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with
Wind renewable energy growth management 63 the City of Ulsan to build and maintain offshore floating wind farms, as well as to create a local supply chain in South Korea (Offshorewind Biz, Shell and CoensHexicon Offshore Wind Farm, 2019).
Another interesting example of offshore wind development is in Saudi Arabia in the Middle East region. The development of new floating offshore wind farm projects is part of its new 5 gigawatt (GW) wind market concept. These are being implemented in Saudi Arabia by international wind developers. Saipem has just signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Abu Dhabi-based Plambeck Emirates for the development and construction of a floating offshore wind farm in Saudi Arabia. The 500 megawatt (MW) wind project will commence its development phases via Plambeck Saudi, which is a Plambeck subsidiary company located in Riyadh. Under the signed MoU, Saipem will begin operations after finalisation of the financial agreements at the end of the planning phase. Then a contract will be signed for Saipem to undertake the engineering, design, construction and installation of the entire offshore wind farm project plus provide related services.