A rapidly expanding sector, projected to peak in the next years in terms of added capacity, asks for specific and reliable know-how in order to secure strategic investment
In many countries, offshore wind farms are already a common part of energy policies and will expand in the near future. Offshore fields have undoubted advantages if compared to similar structures built inland: offshore winds are more reliable, steadier and, in many areas, particularly intense, providing a virtually endless source of energy.
Furthermore, environmental costs of such energy plants are reduced, as inland environment is left untouched.
The European offshore wind farm industry saw some big numbers in 2015, with over 13 billion euros invested and a total of over 3000 MW of new capacity added, 14 new projects (with six more underway in Germany) and over 400 new turbines installed.
In more detail, over 75% of additional capacity was in Germany, while UK followed with a 18,7% share and the Netherlands with almost 6%. 86% of the total net capacity was installed in the North Sea, 9,2% in the Baltic Sea and 4,7% in the Irish Sea.
Amongst suppliers, Siemens continues to top the lists, followed by Adwen, MHI Vestas and Senvion, while E.ON was the largest developer with 17,1% of total connections. In 2016, however, the total capacity will decrease from 3.8 GW to 1.5GW, but it is estimated to peak at 9,2GW in 2022.
Development of such energy infrastructures is demanding from an engineering point of view. Building turbines also means identifying proper solutions in order to secure such huge investments, located several miles offshore and exposed to potentially devastating natural forces.
In the case of mono-pile turbines – the most common – underwater foundations are exposed to a high risk of scouring. Scouring happens when undercurrents “wash” the sand or gravel envelope surrounding the basement, thus exposing the whole structure to potential instability and early deterioration. But also underwater cables delivering energy are exposed to strong marine forces.
It is then clear that these investments will need to deliver systems with best-in-class know-how and expertise in order to build efficient infrastructure; Erosion, scouring and cable protection are some of Maccaferri’s fields of endeavor.
This is the reason why Deltares, an independent Dutch Institute for applied research in the field, invited Maccaferri to participate in a Joint Industry Project in the coastal and marine sector, in order to study and develop innovative solutions aimed at securing wind farms. The partnership over two years also involves other participants, selection of Maccaferri’s innovative solutions are to be included and tested within the program. Analysis of results and eventual modifications (if neccessary), are targeted to make our products compatible with extreme operating conditions.
Maccaferri is proudly investing in this exciting initiative, which will bring important progress in the discovery of a rapidly expanding and socially relevant sector.
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