As France embarks on its first off-shore wind farms, Denmark is about to dismantle one of its own. Not that the wind farm was a failure, quite the reverse. But it was first put into service in 1991. Located in Vindeby, it has been working for 25 years, paving the way for a sustainable form of electricity supply which is now expanding at a very fast pace, particularly in Northern Europe, in Germany, Great Britain, Scandinavia and Benelux. In 2016, 13 commercial wind farms were under construction in Europe. Once operational, they will generate an additional output of 4.2 GW – producing as much power as a nuclear pressurised water reactor (PWR).
A recent visit to SIF Holding, which manufactures foundations for wind turbines, particularly captured our attention.
MONOPILES, GIANT HOLLOW NAILS...
Since 1991, the wind power capacity of turbines has risen 15 or 20-fold and an industrial sector specialised in developing, building and installing off-shore wind farms has emerged. Naturally, manufacturers of wind turbines have leveraged on the opportunities created by this new industry, but so have businesses with expertise in ship building and off-shore operations. North Sea and Baltic port companies are at the forefront of this business. After an initial period of infancy, the industry has become increasingly structured and specialised. The business is mainly about manufacturing monopiles, steel tubes with diameters of 6 to 10 meters and 50 to 80 meters long that provide foundations for the installation of wind turbines. These are hammered into the sandy seabed using specifically customised ships. The wind turbines are then placed onto these monopiles.
...FOR GIANT WIND TURBINES
SIF Holding, a shipbuilder located close to Rotterdam, has adapted its plant for the construction of monopiles and is now building additional industrial capacity with a view to producing XL monopiles that are strong enough to support turbines of unprecedented power, size, and weight.
The wind farms that are currently being developed will run 8 MW turbines (able to produce 4 times more power than current on-shore wind turbines), enough to supply energy to 6,000 households. The foundations of these mammoth wind turbines must therefore be designed and sized accordingly.
The wind farms that are currently being developed will run 8 MW turbines, enough to supply energy to 6,000 households
Once constructed, these huge structures are hammered into the seabed using customised boats. The Belgian DEME, part of the CFE group, owns a fleet adapted to operations of this kind. In a similar vein to its Dutch competitors, Boslakis and Van Oord, CFE’s wind-farm activity is complementary to its historic business focused on port and canal dredging and offshore oil and gas drilling. Once the foundations are laid, other boats are used to install the wind turbines and linked them up to the electric grid.
Credits : Paul Martens
NB: SIF HOLDING and CFE feature in the portfolio of the Sycomore Eco Solutions fund.
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