Ireland’s first offshore wind project, the Arklow Bank Wind Park in the Irish Sea, is nearing completion, GE Wind Energy announced at BWEA 25. Co-developed by GE and Airtricity, the 25 MW Arklow Bank project is owned and will be operated by GE as a demonstration platform for its new 3.6 MW wind turbine.Glasgow, Scotland – October 30, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] Erection of the project’s seven GE 3.6 MW machines, the world’s first commercial application of offshore wind turbines more than three MW 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 began with the project’s seven monopole 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 kilometers away, as they were needed for erection. “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 kilometers 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. 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 MW 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 MW to receive approval for development Held by Airtricity, the Irish foreshore lease provides for the eventual development of more than 520 MW of offshore wind power at the Arklow Bank. The first commercial prototype of the 3.6 MW 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 MW 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.