This is a long article but worth the read.
Offshore wind is big, complicated and expensive engineering, and with the Hornsea and Dogger Bank and other big offshore wind farms under development, it’s increasing in all these aspects.
Government and green groups keep telling us that offshore wind is getting cheaper, but there’s evidence that if anything it’s getting more expensive as plant gets old and firms juggle capital against operational expenditure.
Last year’s gearbox change required the use of a jack-up ship and took five days to complete
Most wind farms are calculated to have a 25-year life, after which most Crown Estates contracts demand the site is cleared and made good. In that time, like all machinery, the turbines need looking after and can go wrong – and that maintenance cycle is complicated by the unquantifiable stresses imposed by salt water, high winds and UV radiation.
Giant automatic lubrication drums and careful design means a wind turbine should be able to look after itself for six months between essential maintenance. But after eight years turning and burning, Teesside’s turbines are ageing and sometimes need replacement parts, which is entirely in line with the few studies that have been done on reliability.
“It’s mainly motors and pumps,” says Wardle. “Things that are running 24/7; they take the strain.”
But while the Teesside turbines have required no blade replacements, last year’s transmission change, while well planned and executed, took five days of intensive work with a jack-up ship.
EDF Teesside windfarm visit
Time for a reviving tea within the nacelle atop the turbine once the job is finished Credit: Andrew English
You can be sure that EDF will have done some pretty fancy calculations before taking over Operations and Maintenance (O&M) of Teesside from Siemens. And one of the inputs to those calculations will have been the Government’s subsidies to renewable power generation, comprising: Feed-In tariffs; the Renewable Obligation; and Contracts for Difference, the last two aimed at larger generators.
Teesside, for example, received 369,772 Renewable Obligation Certificates in the 12-month period between 2018 and 2019, which are worth a lot of money. Everything is complicated in this business and the financing is no exception. The latest report from the Office for Budgetary Responsibility states that last year renewable subsidies amounted to about £8 billion and its figures project a total subsidy rising every year to £11.3 billion in 2025/26.
Gareth Jackson is Teesside’s head of O&M and pays moving tribute to his team, adding: “It’s good to be doing a good job and it makes it extra special to be doing a bit for the environment.”
And there lies the rub. Offshore wind is doing its bit for the environment, but over-claiming its contribution is as short-sighted and idiotic as discounting it. Harvesting the wind was never going to be free, or particularly easy. To claim it is rashly ignores the amazing engineering design and the skills and bravery of the engineers and technicians who build and look after them. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/onboard-offshore-wind…/