You may be wondering how wind farm construction takes shape. Well, there are several steps involved, from the development and engineering to the entire construction and operation. This post is an overview of the steps involved in the construction of offshore wind farms at sea.
Table of Contents
The first stage is identifying the most suitable site for the installation of the offshore wind farm. The inspector has to look at the wind resource in the area to determine the amount of energy in the wind. This stage will include measures of the wind, temperature, humidity, and pressure. This process may take at least a year of collecting data to indicate the average wind speed. Geography and topographical features can affect the quality of wind in a given area which alters the kinetic energy available in it and speed.
Unlike onshore, where there are many barriers to the wind, offshore provides high wind speeds, which are more consistent, resulting in more energy production. But, the engineering challenges of installing offshore wind farms have led to the development of superior machinery and innovative construction tools such as upending tools to simplify the installation of offshore wind turbines.
The construction process
The design process of offshore wind farms is standardized, and the choice of construction materials is consistent across all wind farms. The horizontal axis wind turbine is a standard model, and the most commonly used materials are steel and fiberglass. The reason is that these materials offer the perfect blend of quality of stability, and strength. Steel makes a stable tower, while fiberglass provides the lightness required to catch the wind while withstanding the high wind speeds. During the construction of the turbine, other work is usually ongoing to facilitate its installation. That includes the preparation of foundations to sit the turbine and the connection of export cables and generators to convert the wind energy into electricity.
Fixing the foundation
Offshore wind turbines can either be fixed or the currently floating wind turbines. For fixed foundations, the process may involve driving a single steel monopile into the sea bed to support the wind turbine in depths of more up to 30meters. Another method may involve using a steel jacket structure that looks like electricity pylons, facilitating installation up to depths of 50meters. In both processes, the structures are driven deep into the sea bed. The monopiles can be very large-sized- up to six meters diameter with a wide foundation to support tall turbines.
While fixed foundations offer feasibility of installation up to 50meters, beyond that, the process gets more complex, and the costs rise. That is why engineers are currently experimenting with floating foundations for offshore wind farms to go at water depths beyond 50meters.
After the groundwork is done, the wind turbines are ready for construction. The turbine blades and the towers are transported to the port where they need to be assembled. That requires special machines such as cranes, specialist ships to carry heavy loads, etc. Working at sea makes it a bit more complicated, which is why professional and experienced engineers are involved.
The last stage
After construction, the testing process follows to ensure everything is working as required. After the engineers test the structure, the wind turbines are now running to generate the electricity and feed it to the grid. It takes a lengthy process, but it is beneficial in the long run.
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