WIND

Project Evolution

ADAM BARBER

February 21, 2013

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What’s always quite interesting about the wind energy sector is the way in which the projects undertaken tend to evolve.

Indeed, it’s a sign of the continued development of the industry as a whole that projects can be continually improved upon, with turbines of greater capacity or of an improved design added at a later date.

And as Vattenfall announced that its Kentish Flats project was to be expanded this week, many took it to be a sign that confidence in UK offshore wind remains.

Of course it’s not just offshore where the projects may be expanded. Iberdrola’s UK subsidiary, ScottishPower Renewables, has successfully extended the Whitelee project once already and has applied to do so again. In total, this will see another 230MW of capacity added to the project.

And this is all well and good, but the adding of more turbines is only half the story. The supporting infrastructure provides its own challenges at any stage during the project lifecycle – particularly offshore.

Onshore there is of course the risk of overwhelming the local grid connection. So what may start as a simple extension may turn into a greater investment than originally conceived.

This might seem a small hurdle in the grand scheme of things, but given the alternative of having to power down turbines at times of peak wind flow, the reputational damage done to the wind industry lasts longer than the turbine downtime.

Offshore, the connections run a unique set of risks. With the first phase of some of the major offshore projects marred by some damage to export cables, adding to costs and overruns, connecting these later phases also poses a number of challenges.

We should of course applaud any moves that sensibly increase the capacity of the wind energy market, but we should ensure that they’re made in line with what’s affordable and achievable.

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