Germany installs first offshore wind turbine

BORKUM, GERMANY - Germany has just obtained its first offshore wind turbine following the installation of a 5-megawatt (MW) turbine at the Alpha Ventus offshore windfarm in the North Sea.

The windfarm, which suffered a one-year delay in construction, will have 12 turbines and a capacity of about 60 MW. Situated 45 kilometres (28 miles) north of the island of Borkum, the windfarm is owned by a consortium of companies including E.ON AG, Vattenfall Europe, part of Swedish utility Vattenfall AB and EWE AG, a German energy and gas provider. The companies have created a joint venture company named Deutsche Offshore-Testfeld und Infrastruktur GmbH (DOTI).

The project is costing an estimated 250 million euros (US$350 million), and all 12 turbines are expected to be up and running by the end of this year. Alpha Ventus will be the first offshore windfarm in German waters and will generate enough power for roughly 50,000 homes.

By the end of the year, six Areva Multibrid M5000 and six of RePower's new 5M turbines will be in place.

Construction began in August 2008 but was stopped because of bad weather conditions. Construction got under way again in April of this year.

"This is a first for offshore wind energy utilization in Germany," said Wilfried Hube of EWE, overall project leader of Alpha Ventus. "For the first time, wind turbines of this size are being constructed this far offshore in waters up to 30 meters deep. EWE, E.ON and Vattenfall are accomplishing a truly pioneering feat in the offshore wind industry, and I am certain that Alpha Ventus will be a success story."

Alpha Ventus is envisaged as the pioneering German offshore wind project, with all parties agreeing that it will provide a valuable learning experience for future projects. One of the most expensive lessons learned to date has been that delays cost money. The cost of the project rose from the original 190 million euros to 250 million euros because of the construction delay.

Speaking about the "unique conditions" of the project, Vattenfall's Oliver Funk, who is also the managing director of DOTI, commented, "The 190 millions euros that we had originally planned was increased to 250 million euros. In this respect, one can already say that we have learned the hard way, but this money has been invested well. In future projects, each individual company involved will profit from the valuable experience gained from Alpha Ventus."

The next step is the phased launching of the first wind turbine, which will be connected to the offshore transformer station in the coming weeks. Once fully operational, EWE will be responsible for the supervision and overall operational management of the windfarm.


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