Reducing the Costs of the Offshore Wind Turbine Supply Chain
Offshore wind power as an industry is set to undergo intense growth over the next 10-20 years. The EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) has established targets of 40GW of offshore wind power production by the year 2020, and 150GW by 2030. This move towards a European grid represents a 28% annual increase in market growth; it will enable the trade of electricity between states, and cement Europe's status as technological leaders in the wind power industry.
Meeting the first target of 40GW by 2010 requires the manufacture and installation of around 10,000 wind turbines; and there are several logistical challenges that must be overcome to achieve this aim. Offshore wind power is at an early stage of development, and there remains a necessity to streamline all aspects of the supply chain from component manufacture, to turbine design, to installation processes.
The designs of offshore turbines were generally borrowed or adapted from their onshore counterparts; so production of offshore wind turbines had been reliant to an extent on the market growth of the onshore industry. As recently as 2008 this led to supply shortages during periods of high onshore demand. Offshore wind power, however, must be viewed as an entirely different concept to onshore wind power. With the potential for larger turbines, and no limitations on aesthetics or noise levels, manufacturers are developing specifically designed offshore turbines which could increase to up to 10MW in capacity.
Siemens, for example is currently supplying its SWT-3.6-120 turbines for use in the London Array project. The 3.6MW turbine has a 120m rotor, and the three-bladed cantilevered construction will start to produce electricity at wind speeds of 7mph. Supply and installation, however, consists of shipping the turbines from Denmark to the UK, transferring them from barges to installation vessels, before installing the turbine, the hub, and finally the blades.
To establish mass production and cost efficiency of supply and installation, there are several initiatives in development, and various logistical problems to navigate. Design is moving towards the creation of more 'intelligent' turbines, with advanced control monitoring and preventative maintenance. While the development of 'simple' turbines with fewer moving parts designed to be changed easily, will also significantly reduce costs both in terms of construction and operation and maintenance.