Clean Power offshore wind energy

Published on December 24th, 2014 | by Tina Casey

17

More Offshore Wind Energy (€620 Million More) From French Nuke Company

December 24th, 2014 by  

Despite the shrieking drop in oil and natural gas prices, it’s still easy to find legacy energy companies that are forging ahead with renewable energy projects. The latest example comes from the French nuclear energy company Areva, which has just signed on to supply 70 turbines for the Wikinger offshore wind farm at an estimated cost of €620 million.

Come to think of it, isn’t it cheaper to build all this stuff when fossil energy prices are lower?

offshore wind energy

Offshore wind farm (courtesy of Ibderola).

Areva And Offshore Wind Energy

We’re interested in Areva because its leading history in the nuclear energy field hasn’t stopped the company from diving into renewables. That includes solar as well as wind, and last spring Areva announced that it will contribute its specialty membranes to an electrolysis-based hydrogen manufacturing process.

Just last summer, Areva partnered up with the wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa with the intention of nailing 20 percent of Europe’s offshore wind market by 2020.

The Wikinger offshore wind project demonstrates how quickly Areva has climbed up the renewable energy ladder, especially now that it has locked arms with Gamesa. The project is headed up by Iberdrola, and the figure of €620 million represents Iberdrola’s largest ever renewable energy contract. Another €70 million will go for a five-year extendable maintenance contract.

It’s also the first time Iberdrola will install 5-megawatt turbines in an offshore wind farm.

For those of you keeping score at home, the Wikinger offshore wind farm is a 350-megwatt project located in the Baltic Sea. At a total cost of about €1.4 billion, it will generate enough energy to power about 350,000 typical German households.

So Much For Germany — What About US Offshore Wind Energy?

The new project also demonstrates just how badly the US has been lagging behind the global offshore wind energy sector. Not a single offshore wind farm is in operation anywhere in US waters, which is nuts, considering that the Atlantic coast alone has enough offshore wind resources to power every city up and down the seaboard.

However, not to worry. Despite some heavy pushback from the Koch brothers (including the “invisible” Koch brother) offshore wind project are in the works for several East Coast states.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Bob_Wallace

    First they have to figure out how to make them. Lots of people are working on lots of things.

  • Joseph Dubeau

    I didn’t read any connection between Offshore Wind Energy and membranes to an electrolysis-based hydrogen manufacturing process. Is this vaporware?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think it’s more about Areva starting to morph away from being a nuclear energy company and getting into other businesses.

    • Michael G

      Go to http://www.areva.com/search and type in hydrogen. 167 references

      “AREVA has over 10 years of experience in energy storage, particularly in the hydrogen field.

      The group designs, manufactures and industrializes turnkey energy storage solutions and products to generate electricity with fuel cells and produce hydrogen by electrolysis.”

      Hydrogen has very high energy density compared to batteries – 1 kg H2 = 1 gal. petrol – so can be used where density matters more than cost. You probably aren’t going to drive ocean liners, battleships, or tanks on batteries.

      Personally, I don’t think it will drive the car of the future but I’ve been wrong before and the stakes are too high to neglect any avenue. It is very hard to predict things, especially the future.

      The knock on electrolysis is that it is too expensive, which it is on its own. But every industrialized country generates more power than it can consume for safety margin. The wind blows more at night than during the day. Nukes generate power almost constantly. Solar cells generate power whether you can use it or not. Why not use that excess power for making hydrogen instead of sending it to nowhere as it is currently?

      • Bob_Wallace

        It comes down to economics. Is the supply of surplus/very cheap electricity constant enough to support hydrogen production or would the equipment sit unused too much of the time?

        If the supply is a few hours on sunny days when it’s not hot (AC using power) and a few very windy hours late at night then the supply of almost free electricity won’t pay for a plant that runs only a small number of hours per year.

        The place where this sort of generation might make sense is to store for deep grid backup. The few times a year when wind and solar are both low for a few days in a row. That is when it would cost a lot to bring peakers on line and a place where H2 storage might compete.

        • Michael G

          There is *ALWAYS* unused capacity sitting idle as backup in the event of failure in a power plant, or connection, or a sudden peak as when everyone tunes in for a big news item. Power plants of all sort go off line through some failure somewhere and a backup plant is *always* in standby mode for immediate cutover for these occasions.

          Why does no-one *ever* address the question I pose of powering ocean liners, and tanks? Why *IS* that?? Afraid to mention a place where Li-ion won’t work?

          H2 may be a niche solution for storage but a niche here, a niche there, and we get where we want to be. Areva has been doing this for 10 years so they apparently have found some niches.

          The DoE has a site here:

          http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/

          If you read around a little you find they are very aware of the challenges facing H2 but also have found areas where it makes economic sense. They have made tremendous progress in bringing down the costs over the last 10-12 years. Reasonable to expect they will continue to do so. Right now, (unsubsidized) warehouse forklifts seem to make economic sense to cheapskates like Walmart as mentioned here:

          http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/11/f19/fcto_progress_and_accomplishments_2014_0.pdf

          • Bob_Wallace

            “There is *ALWAYS* unused capacity sitting idle as backup”

            Can a hydrogen plant shut down quickly enough (in seconds) so that extra capacity can be used to deal with the grid problem?

            Furthermore, that ‘spinning reserve’ is starting to be replaced with batteries. It may not be around to be used.

            ” a backup plant is *always* in standby mode for immediate cutover for these occasions.”

            I think what is more common is that most plants run a bit less than full output and ramp up – that’s what a lot of our spinning reserve is. And producers are starting ask for compensation for that curtailment.

            “Why does no-one *ever* address the question I pose of powering ocean liners, and tanks?”

            People don’t find that as interesting a topic? Tanks aren’t going to be run on hydrogen. They need a much denser fuel source. Canola oil would be better. Perhaps ocean liners. But biofuel would probably work better – density again.

            “they apparently have found some niches.”

            There are industrial uses for hydrogen.

            “They have made tremendous progress in bringing down the costs over the last 10-12 years.”

            What are the numbers?

            “Walmart”

            Warehouses need non-CO ways to power forklifts. H2 is worth a try. Warehouses are also running battery powered forklifts. Doing rapid charging during driver breaks.

          • Michael G

            What’s frustrating for me is I provide links to support my arguments and you don’t follow them to find out for yourself. Nor do you provide any links for your own arguments.

            Business case ($1.3B world wide sales) here:

            http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/11/f19/fcto_business_case_fuel_cells_2014.pdf

            From the (previously provided) link:

            http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/11/f19/fcto_progress_and_accomplishments_2014_0.pdf

            Durability more than doubled since 2006, cost down 50% since 2006, 25% increase in energy density, 40% decrease in manufacuring costs since 2008, reducing
            the cost of electrolyzer stacks by more than 80% since 2002. You can read more on your own.

            As I noted earlier, 1 kg of H2 has the energy of 1 gal. (2.6 kg) of gasoline so I am mysitified why you keep dismissing H2 on energy density grounds.

            They have had battery forklifts for many years, so it is of interest that they are shifting *to* H2 forklifts *from* batteries. Case study here:

            http://www.h2andyou.org/caseStudies_forklift.asp

            More here:

            http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, I followed up some of your links.

            ​​Your Breakthrough Technologies Institute article is from a hydrogen advocacy group. They’re pushing fuel cells for backup power, which may be a very legitimate role for operations that can’t afford to be off line.

            Your Walmart H2 forklift article is about something that happened in 2006 and compares fuel cells to lead acid batteries.

            I stuck an energy density chart at the bottom. It’s from here – http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=9991

            Now, what in my previous post do you think needs a link?

  • Larmion

    I’ve yet to see proof that the US ‘needs’ offshore wind.

    Europe needs onshore wind because its high population density and moderate inland wind resources mean that it is rapidly running out of sites that have good wind resources and limited NIMBY opposition.

    The US, on the other hand, has vast onshore resources in the Midwest, Northwest, Texas/Oklahoma and elsewhere, with capacity factors close to those of European offshore farms and not a NIMBY for miles expect for the odd farmer who earns a fortune from the turbines on his land.

    Perhaps offshore might make sense anyway due to proximity to the large coastal cities, but neither CleanTechnica nor any other site I’m aware of ever posted a study that answered the question whether the potentially lower transmission costs/losses make up for the vastly more expensive turbines.

    All electricity generation is expensive. We shouldn’t make the mistake of cheerleading projects that might make it more expensive than necessary until we have strong evidence that it doesn’t.

    The European example isn’t encouraging: even the UK, with its vast economies of scale, still finds offshore wind more expensive than any other source of electricity and almost unfathomably more so than onshore. I can’t believe the US would be any different.

    • Bob_Wallace

      We’ll have to see how the economics play out. Will it be cheaper to build capacity in the Midwest, run transmission lines and build storage in order to supply the East Coast during peak demand hours or will it be cheaper to install offshore wind close to our large population centers?

      How about Texas? Panhandle wind tends to not produce well during the hottest weather but offshore cooks. Florida? Modest wind if one goes to taller towers but pretty good wind just offshore.

      Will the West Coast find it cheaper to run transmission lines to Wyoming or launch floaters from Coos Bay and tap into some of the best wind in the world?

      It’s too early to know how it will play out. Offshore wind is not mature technology. There are likely costs to be wrung out.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        This argument of “transmission cost” is weak.
        For new FF plants, new transmission lines would have to added to the cost. Do Coal fired plants pay a transmission fee?

        • Bob_Wallace

          FF plants are generally built close to demand. That’s not always true – there’s the Intermountain Intertie that hauled coal electricity from Utah to SoCal. But, in general, new FF plants are build close to existing transmission and have to pay for only what is needed to hook them up.

          When Ontario was looking at building new nuclear the cost for needed transmission ran over $1 billion.

          There’s not enough existing transmission to carry Iowa/South Dakota wind to NYC. That’s some distance.

          • eveee

            Difficult to Chicago, too. Its starting to happen. Since transmission line costs are a small fraction of rates, they can increase if generation costs go down. The big problem with all energy is the high capital costs. Transmission infrastructure is supposed to last 40 years to get good payback.

            http://www.cleanlineenergy.com/projects

        • sjc_1

          Pickens wanted to put in 1000s of wind turbines from Texas to the Dakotas in 2008, he ran into transmission cost problems, no one wanted to build them for him.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s not exactly correct. Pickens was expecting a new transmission line to be built close to his site in Texas. The route did not come close enough to his site.

    • eveee

      This paper has good references to some of the studies done on offshore wind. Offshore cannot use existing grid. It has to immediately face that reality. Onshore historically tends to max out the grid creating curtailment until the grid is enhanced.

      Its probably too early to conclude where, when, and how offshore works best. Offshore is more expensive, but it must be taken in the context of the larger framework of distance and demand matching.

      The US West Coast has the best offshore winds, but its in deeper waters where the technology is in development.

      http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/08/f18/NOWEGIS%20Executive%20Summary.pdf

      http://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy-program/renewable-energy-guide/offshore-wind-energy.aspx

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