Gas, Renewables

Arklow Bank wind park in the Irish sea nearing completion

29 October 2003 – Ireland’s first offshore wind project, the Arklow Bank Wind Park in the Irish Sea, is nearing completion, GE Wind Energy announced Tuesday.

Erection of the project’s seven GE 3.6-megawatt machines, the world’s first commercial application of offshore wind turbines more than three megawatts in size, was completed in only nine weeks. Commissioning of the units is currently in progress and the project is expected to begin producing power before the end of this year.

The wind turbine erection process commenced with the project’s seven monopile foundations, which were driven into the seabed using the same process found in bridge building. A transition piece which provides access for cables and maintenance workers was fitted over each monopile. Two tower sections were added to the top of each transition piece and bolted into place. Each nacelle, which holds the main working components, was lifted to the top of each structure.

Finally, each rotor assembly was lifted from its horizontal shipping position to the vertical fixing position, and attached to the nacelle. All major components were staged and assembled at Rosslare Harbour and transported to the project site, approximately 80 kilometres away, as they were needed for erection.

Co-developed by GE and Airtricity, the 25-megawatt Arklow Bank project is owned and will be operated by GE as a demonstration platform for its new 3.6-megawatt technology.
“We are extremely pleased with the progress of this project thus far,” said Steve Zwolinski, president of GE Wind Energy. “We have brought together an extremely talented worldwide team, from GE, Airtricity and top external contractors, to assure the project’s success. The local community’s keen support has also played an important role in streamlining local logistics and providing for various project needs. The Arklow Bank was specifically chosen for this demonstration because of its challenging conditions – this experience will provide us with valuable best-practices for future offshore technology deployment.”

A shallow-water sandbank, Arklow Bank is located about 10 kilometres off the east coast of Ireland and sits within one of best wind resource sites around the British Isles. The varying sea conditions, accelerated currents in the area and shifting nature of the sandbank itself has historically presented challenges to seamen. Combined with the shear size of the 3.6 MW turbines, which utilize a 104 meter rotor – a swept area greater than the size of a soccer pitch – the project will continue to provide many “first” offshore experiences.

For example, due to sea and wind conditions and the size of the turbines, GE’s engineering team devised special lifting devices to enable the safest and quickest means of lifting the various components. Additionally, the working barge was fitted with a 1200-ton crane to enable it to reach the heights required for the placement of the uppermost parts of the turbine, and to deal with the weight involved.

“We are already putting the new capabilities and data acquired by this demonstration project to work” said Thomas Wagner, GE Wind Energy’s chief engineer. “Among some of our new initiatives, we are currently developing a comprehensive safety regime specifically focused on the special needs of offshore wind. We’re also currently adapting GE’s very successful gas turbine power plant remote operation and monitoring program for wind deployment, which will play a very important role in managing the reliability and maintenance expenses of offshore power plants. These and other initiatives will be validated at Arklow and will be made ready to support future offshore development.”

Airtricity, Ireland’s largest renewable energy company, holds an option to purchase the project after the demonstration is complete, approximately two years after first operation.
Commenting on the project, Eddie O’Connor, chief executive of Airtricity, said: “This is a landmark demonstration project for Airtricity, GE Wind Energy and Ireland in general. We are delighted with the progress of the project and the completion of the construction phase on schedule. Power is expected to be produced from this wind park before the end of this year and will be used to supply clean, renewable energy to Airtricity’s growing customer base (currently 28,000). This is the first phase of Airtricity’s plans for the development of the world’s largest offshore wind park (520 MW) on the Arklow Bank.”

The Arklow Bank Wind Plant is expected to produce enough clean wind energy to serve the annual electricity needs of approximately 16,000 Irish households. The 25-megeawatt Arklow project was first introduced as phase one of a much larger development which Airtricity proposes to build over the coming years. This larger proposal represents the first large-scale offshore project over 500 megawatts to receive approval for development Held by Airtricity, the Irish foreshore lease provides for the eventual development of more than 520 megawatts of offshore wind power at the Arklow Bank.

The first commercial prototype of the 3.6-megawatt wind turbine technology being used at Arklow Bank was unveiled by GE Wind Energy during 2002. Installed on land in Spain as a test bed, this machine has been producing power for Spanish energy supplier Iberdrola. Expressly designed for offshore applications, the 3.6-megawatt machine is one of the largest wind turbines developed to date, and represents some of the most advanced wind turbine technology available in the world.

GE Wind Energy is one of the world’s leading wind power companies. With design, manufacturing and /or assembly facilities in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, China and the United States, the company’s current product portfolio includes wind turbines with rated outputs from 900 to 3600 kilowatts, and support services ranging from project development assistance to operation and maintenance. The company’s knowledge base includes the development and/or installation of more than 6,100 wind turbines with a rated capacity exceeding 3,900 megawatts. GE Wind Energy employs more than 1,700 people worldwide.

Airtricity was established in 1997 to develop wind energy in Ireland and abroad, and currently is developing wind farms in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. As an integrated utility, the company is both a generator and a supplier of electricity.