InvestigationThe European offshore champion wants to five-fold its capacity within a decade. But the intermittent availability of this renewable energy complicates the situation.
As you approach, the enormity of the mechanics that are suddenly being crafted becomes clear. The 81-meter blade protrudes along the factory, while the subtle-looking workers next to it prepare to move it. It would take more than an hour to move this monster of balsa wood, fiberglass and resin. The interior can be hollow, and the walls do not exceed twenty centimeters, the whole thing weighs 35 tons. Every week, a dozen of them come out of the Siemens Gamesa factory, a Spanish company, in a joint venture with the German Siemens.
It is located in Hull, in the north-east of England, at a port on the Humber estuary, close to the sea. It is impossible to transport giants other than by sea. Soon, three identical blades and a giant metal tower will be mounted on a boat, which will be assembled in the open sea more than 100 kilometers from the coast. Once installed, the giant wind turbine will be 204 meters high, equivalent to the Montparnasse tower.
Off the English coast, more than 2,200 of these white birds have already descended, each time slightly larger and slightly more powerful. “When I started in 2007, the turbines had 1.4 MW of power. Today we are preparing for 14 MW., notes, almost unbelievably, Andrew Elms, in charge of development for Siemens Gamesa for the United Kingdom. Year after year, records are broken and the world’s largest wind farms are built on the east coast of Britain. Part of the blade from the hull plant, for example, Hornsey One, opened in 2019: 174 turbines 120 kilometers from the coast, 30 meters deep, with a total capacity of 1.2 GW. On paper, this is as much as a nuclear reactor.
40% of their theoretical power
On paper only. The wind power plant operator Orstedt’s control room is located on the opposite bank of the Humber in Grimsby. In a building facing the harbor, a multitude of screens monitor in real time the electricity generated on this gray day in late April. “At the moment, we produce 181 MWh, that’s not a lot”, notes the operator. or one-seventh of the maximum output. Nothing unusual: the wind is by definition intermittent, blowing more or less vigorously. On average, offshore wind turbines operate at 40% of their theoretical power.
In this difficulty lies the gamble of the entire British power. In a decade, the United Kingdom has become the second country in the world for offshore wind turbines, with 10.5 gigawatts installed, twice as much as China but twice as much as Germany and four times that of the Netherlands. Bass (France only its first offshore wind farm at the end of the year). “It’s a great success [britannique] Last decade »Michael Grubb, professor of energy and climate change at University College London.
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