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Alpha Ventus Wind Farm Tops Forecasts

Originally published on ABB-Conversations.

In every endeavor, there has to be a first: The first person in space, the first man on the moon, the first to stand atop the highest mountain in the world.

For Germany’s offshore wind industry, it was the pioneering Alpha Ventus installation off the coast of Borkum that waded first into the water.

Now, nearly five years after the blades of Alpha Ventus’ turbines began turning and producing electricity via drivetrains from ABB, the verdict over its initial operations is in and it’s better than engineers on the project had forecast.

The three-utility consortium of companies that operates this 60 megawatt installation some 60 kilometers north of the German mainland in the North Sea say Alpha Ventus has produced 10 percent more power during 2011 to 2013, its first three full years of operation, than they’d originally estimated.

It’s capacity factor – average power generated as a percentage of its nameplate capacity – was nearly 50 percent, more than double some other wind farms on the North Sea and easily among the top performers.

Energy To Spare

In the process, Germany’s first offshore wind farm this year surpassed the mark of one terawatt hour of generated power, a figure equivalent to the annual consumption of 285,000 households. To put that in perspective, that’s more than enough to keep the German city of Magdeburg’s homes lit for 365 days, with energy to spare.

According to the operators EWE, E.ON and Vattenfall, the 12 turbines of  Alpha Ventus, half of which are powerful 5 megawatt AREVA M5000-116 models outfitted with ABB’s electrical drivetrains, fed some 253 gigawatt hours into the grid annually.

The Heart Of The Turbine

At the heart of Areva’s turbines, ABB’s electrical drivetrain convert the wind energy from the gales captured by the blades into electric power.

The drivetrain combines ABB’s high-efficiency permanent magnet generators with ABB’s PCS6000 medium voltage full power converters, the essential link that connect the generators to the grid so it can be shipped via high voltage lines to the mainland where it’s needed.

AREVA Wind and ABB worked closely together through the entire development of these machines to maximize the electrical drivetrain benefits.

Alpha Ventus – A Success Story

This solution is extremely efficient and has the dual benefits of generating maximum electricity at partial loads with low winds while still providing trustworthy performance in the demanding offshore conditions where during one 2013 storm the wind speed topped 170 kilometers an hour.

The turbines have proven their mettle, and AREVA Wind is currently installing another 120 of the AREVA M5000 turbines, each equipped with ABB generators and full-power medium voltage converters, at two additional North Sea wind projects, the Trianel Windpark Borkum and Global Tech I, that are currently under construction.

While there are perils to going first, Alpha Ventus’ forecast-beating performance since going live also proves that pioneers can also be rewarded.

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