Offshore wind energy: pre-commissioning power at lower costs - Atlas Copco Sweden
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Offshore wind energy

Pre-commissioning power at lower costs

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In the last decade wind energy has transitioned from a niche technology to a large-scale industrial sector.

23 jan 2019

In the last decade wind energy has transitioned from a niche technology to a large-scale industrial sector. When you look at offshore wind energy, Europe clearly leads the global market. Some 86% of global offshore wind energy capacity is produced by Europe(1). The UK, Belgium and Denmark are at the forefront when it come to developing offshore wind parks(2). The development of offshore wind parks entails different challenges than encountered with onshore wind farms. Before a wind turbine can operate at 100%, the blades, turbine and safety features need to be tested during the pre-commissioning phase. This demands a great amount of power. Existing gensets, however, do not fully comply with the specific features of offshore wind turbines. That’s why Atlas Copco Rental designed a dedicated generator from scratch that outperforms the current ones. This generator will allow the wind energy sector to produce pre-commissioning power at lower costs – an important breakthrough with an impact on the future of offshore wind energy.

Lifecycle of offshore wind parks

1. Planning

First order of the day, determining the location of the offshore wind park.

2. Construction

Once the location has been determined, the wind turbine can be constructed.

First, the mono pile foundation of the wind turbine is built. A big pile is literally hammered into the seabed.

Note that the hammering causes a shockwave of noise, which can be harmful for all marine life. A bubble curtain is commonly used to protect the sea animals from this shockwave. One single bubble curtain can reduce the acoustic energy by 90%! Wondering how it works? Read our previous blogpost about bubble curtains and see how we can also support this aspect of the construction phase!

Secondly, the transition piece and complete turbine is put on top of the mono pile.

3. Pre-commissioning

During this phase, the wind turbine is tested extensively.

  • Do the blades work properly?
  • Does the turbine turn with the wind?
  • Are the safety features activated on time?

Keep in mind that the turbine is not yet connected to the power grid for safety reasons. Letting the turbine generate its own power during the pre-commissioning phase is dangerous. The wind turbine cannot control this newly produced electricity and could cause a lot of damage. But, on the other hand, not powering up the turbine at this stage is equally hazardous. If there were to be a storm, the blades would not be able to turn and put themselves out of the wind. That’s why the wind energy sector turns to gensets for the production of power.

4. Post-commissioning

The final stage comprises the operational activities and maintenance of the wind turbine.

Existing gensets lag behind

Existing gensets do not comply with the specific demands of offshore wind farm developers. To start with, the current machines weigh too much. As a consequence, the gensets have to remain on board a ship, floating next to the offshore wind turbine. This is a high-risk & high cost situation, since the anchor of the ship might possibly hit an electrical cable on the seabed.
Also, the wind energy company has to rent a heavy-lift ship for which the costs could easily add up to a 6-digit number.

New Power Module 30 generator is perfectly scaled for the wind industry

The wind energy industry is booming and is looking for ways to build bigger and better wind turbines.
Atlas Copco Rental wants to remain a partner of choice to this industry and designed a generator able to support during the installation of future wind turbine farms offshore.

The state-of-the-art generator had to comply with the following conditions: light, small, easily connectable and reliable. Until today, this combination had not been available on the market. Atlas Copco engineers started from scratch and built a new special generator, the Power Module 30.

Atlas Copco Rental developed this new offshore solution to reduce the commissioning costs and meet the demands of the wind energy industry.
The special unit Power Module 30 is lighter (under 1000 kilograms) than existing generators. It can easily be placed on the transition piece of the wind turbine, without needing a heavy-lift ship. A single hand crane is sufficient to lift the generator onto the wind turbine itself. This is much safer and it reduces the commissioning costs tremendously.
Furthermore, the new Power Module 30 can easily be connected to other units. The interconnected generators ‘talk to each other’ via a paralleling system. This way, they are able to share the load if a single generator is insufficient.

All of the above makes this new Power Module 30 generator a perfect choice for the wind energy industry: it’s not only faster and more reliable than existing models, it also ensure a cost efficient project.

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Julio Tome

Product Marketing Manager (Power & Flow) at Atlas Copco Specialty Rental Division