The following is an excerpt from an article by William Steel for Ars Technica
The harnessing of energy has never been without projects of monolithic scale. From the Hoover Dam to the Three Gorges—the world’s largest power station—engineers the world over have recognised that with size comes advantages.
The trend is clear within the wind power industry too, where the tallest wind turbines now tower up to 220m, with rotors spinning through an area greater than that of the London Eye, generating electricity for wind farms that can power whole cities.
While the forecast for offshore wind farms of the future is for ever-larger projects featuring ever-larger wind turbines, an unprecedented plan from electricity grid operators in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark aims to rewrite the rulebook on offshore wind development.
The proposal is relatively straight-forward: build an artificial island in the middle of the North Sea to serve as a cost-saving base of operations for thousands of wind turbines, while at the same time doubling up as a hub that connects the electricity grids of countries bordering the North Sea, including the UK.
In time, more islands may be built too; daisy chained via underwater cables to create a super-sized array of wind farms tapping some of best wind resources in the world.
“Don’t be mistaken, this is really a very large, very ambitious project—there’s nothing like it anywhere in the world. We’re taking offshore wind to the next level,” Jeroen Brouwers, spokesperson for the organisation that first proposed the plan, Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT, tells Ars Technica.
“As we see it, each island could facilitate approximately 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy; but the concept is modular, so we could establish multiple interconnected islands, potentially supporting up to 70 to 100GW.”
To add some context to those figures, consider that the world’s largest offshore wind farm in operation today, the London Array, has a max capacity of 630MW (0.63GW), and that all the wind turbines installed in European waters to date amount to a little over 12.6GW. The Danish TSO Energinet says 70GW could supply power for some 80 million Europeans.
Undoubtedly ambitious, the North Sea Wind Power Hub—as the project is titled—is nevertheless being taken seriously by key stakeholders. The project was centre of attention at the seminal North Seas Energy Forum held in Brussels at the end of March.
There, the consortium behind the project (Dutch-German TSO TenneT, alongside the Danish TSO Energinet) took the opportunity to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will drive the project forward over the coming decades.
Dagmara Koska, a member of the cabinet of the EU vice-president in charge of the Energy Union (Maroš Šefčovič), tells Ars Technica: “We’re incredibly supportive of the project and welcome the MoU. The agreement demonstrates commitment to a very exciting prospect; one that stands to create a lot of synergies to benefit the growth of renewables energy in northern Europe.”
“Considering the challenges we face in combating climate change, and meeting objectives of COP21, aspirations such as these are essential.” – Dagmara Koska
On the intentions of the Wind Power Hub, Koska says: “From our perspective, the project fully reflects the spirit of the North Seas Energy Cooperation—the political agreement signed last yearto facilitate deployment of offshore renewable energy alongside interconnection capacity across the region. As Maroš Šefčovič said at the signing, it’s an ingenious solution.”
Continue reading at Ars Technica…