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winD BLowS StRong
A massive wind power turbine floats offshore, tethered to the ocean
floor far beneath it. The balancing weight beneath the turbine
allows it to stay upright despite the swells of the waves.
Such a deep-water offshore turbine is the focus of the Acciona-led
European project called HiPRWind (pronounced “hyperwind”).
Acciona tested a version of a floating turbine in a defense facility
near Madrid in the spring of 2012, and is designing two pilot tur-
bines that will float off Spain’s coast, the first by the fall of 2013.
Most offshore wind power insta llations in development have
been constructed or are planned for the relatively shallow waters
of Northern Europe, and these operate by way of turbines that
sit atop fixtures attached solidly to the sea’s floor. But as turbines
become larger, and offshore wind moves into deeper waters, float-
ing turbines (none of which are commercially available thus far),
will be the necessary solution, says Raul Manzanas, Acciona’s
research director for on- and offshore wind, because fixed turbines
in deep water are prohibitively expensive. Acciona, which both
manufactures turbines and operates wind farms, is now develop-
ing 6-megawatt floating turbines.
And while the floating solutions are under development, off-
shore wind development is already booming in Northern Europe,
and all the Spanish wind power companies—international leaders
in turbine manufacturing and wind farm operations—are mov-
ing into offshore wind.
Álvaro Martínez, Iberdrola’s offshore manager, spreads out
a huge map of northern Europe, delineating wind farms either
under construction or contracted in the Irish, North, and Baltic
Seas. These farms range from a 400-megawatt farm—larger than
nearly all onshore farms—to ones that will supply seven to ten
thousand megawatts to nearby countries.
Even 100 miles from shore, the waters remain shallow enough
for a fixed platform. The region has strong winds and is close to
many major European population centers. Iberdrola is involved in
two offshore wind farms there, one 400-megawatt farm in the Irish
Sea, already in construction, and another 7.2-gigawatt one in the
North Sea, which will be the second largest in the world, behind
only another planned North Sea wind farm. The power will be
generated close enough to London that Madrid-based Iberdrola has
already secured a market for the wind farm’s entire future power
output. Construction will begin in 2015 and continue throughout
the second part of the decade.
And though fixed offshore wind turbines are commercially
available, this rapidly growing market still presents challenges in
transportation, construction, energy delivery, and maintenance.
Iberdrola is working on a number of research projects to develop
solutions to these challenges.
Onshore wind power, a relatively mature technology, remains
strong: despite economic challenges, wind power grew by 21 percent
from 2010 to 2011. In addition to continued expansion in Europe
and North America, significant growth is taking place in China
and India, and in new markets in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
Spain’s government enacted measures that strongly supported
the expansion of wind power in Spain, and as a result, many of
the top international wind power companies are Spanish. Iber-
drola is the world’s largest wind power operator, running more
than 14 gigawatts of wind farms across more than 20 countries.
Acciona builds turbines and operates wind farms on four con-
tinents. The company recently opened three wind parks in the
Mexican state of Oaxaca, making it the leading wind power opera-
tor in Mexico, and it is supplying wind turbines and initial opera-
tions for a new wind farm in Montana. (Acciona already operates a
turbine factory in Iowa). Gamesa, a leading turbine manufacturer,
has factories in Europe, the U.S., Asia, and Brazil, and turbines
installed in 35 countries. Gamesa recently supplied 152 turbines
for the new 304-megawatt Blue Creek wind farm in Ohio, which
Iberdrola is constructing and will operate. This will be the largest
wind farm in the U.S., and one of the largest in the world.
Experts say the potential for onshore wind power is nowhere
near tapped out, with existing markets continually expanding
and new ones emerging. The technology has decades of demon-
strated success, a nd innovations continue in fields such as wind
forecasting and in new materials and manufacturing techniques
for larger turbines. For instance, Gamesa’s new 4.5 -megawatt tur-
bine’s modular blade, the longest of the onshore blades, is made
of a lightweight composite material that can be easily transported
and assembled. Gamesa is also innovating in offshore wind power,
and is developing a 5-megawatt turbine for offshore wind that may
supply future ocean-based wind farms.
In wind power and solar power alike, Spanish companies remain
leaders in the field, and continue to develop creative technologies
and innovations to lead the market in the future.
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