Research at the Offshore Wind Energy Test Site alpha ventus

"We have to face the special challenges of offshore wind energy and find affordable solutions", emphasised Prof. Jürgen Schmid, who works with his colleagues in the interdisciplinary German Scientific Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU) on strategies for re-modelling energy systems. "In the next few decades only wind and bio-energy will be able to make significant contributions to the electricity energy supply; thus slowing down the dramatic increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere". Since the wind blows more strongly and comparatively to other renewables smaller areas are needed, electricity generation with wind turbines out at sea is particularly attractive. The organisational and technological requirements are however significantly higher than on land, i.e. great distances to the coast, ocean depths of up to 40 m and the harsh sea climate with humid, salty air, strong temperature fluctuations, severe storms, squalls and high wave loads have all to be dealt with.

"When an imaginative spirit of research comes together with solid engineering knowledge, social and corporate commitment as well as the right political strategic direction, it can lead to great achievements being made. The development of the wind energy sector in Germany is a prime example of this. ... Wind energy has developed into the most important pillar of renewable energy electricity generation, with Germany leading the technological front. More than 90,000 jobs have been created in the past few years. This success story must also be forcefully perpetuated offshore", says Joachim Nick-Leptin, Head of R&D division in the Federal Ministry for the Environment. The Federal Government's "Strategy for wind energy utilisation at sea" targets an Offshore capacity of 20 - 25 Gigawatts by the year 2030, being approximately 15% of the German electricity demand. With the RAVE research initiative the Federal Ministry for the Environment supports German offshore wind energy activities and has made a total of 50 million Euro available over 5 years.

"Wind energy in Germany is a success story. It is now essential to take the next step, far out at sea. To this end we must not only bring together the wind energy branch with the know-how of other offshore sectors but also solve new tasks and problems. As many other cases have already shown, if this is done co-operatively and in a well co-ordinated manner, it should be achievable. In other words: Yes, we can!", says Dr. Kurt Rohrig, Division Manager Energy Economics and Network Operation at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology IWES, which co-ordinates the RAVE research initiative. The main research focus will be on cost reduction, increase in profit, advancing the availability of wind energy generators, improving technologies for the construction of offshore wind energy, ecological accompanying research as well as the technical optimisation of wind energy generators with regard to ecological impact.

The first German offshore wind park "alpha ventus" is at the same time a demonstration and a research project. The energy utilities, EWE, E.ON and Vattenfall are co-operating to erect this offshore test site in the North Sea, 70 km from the German coast in water 30 m deep. Twelve wind turbines from the companies Multibrid and Repower, with a hub height of ca. 90 m, a rotor diameter of 116 m respectively 126 m and a capacity of 5 Megawatts each, should deliver enough electricity for about 50,000 households by the end of the year.

The research initiative RAVE accompanies the construction and operation of the "alpha ventus" test site, to attain a broad basis of experience and expertise for future offshore wind parks. It joins together the scientific activities of the plant manufacturers and a multitude of research institutes. In total the BMU has allocated 50 million Euros for the research and further development of wind energy utilisation at sea.

RAVE is sponsored by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety (BMU) following a resolution by the German Parliament.