In the North Sea, too much wind power risks killing wind power

Will there be enough wind in the North Sea to operate all the wind farms that neighboring countries plan to set up? “We will not promote the energy transition if offshore parks are placed in such a way that they deprive each other of wind,” plead in the Handelsblatt Jörg Kubitza, who heads the Orsted group’s activities in Germany.

In question, what specialists call the “wake effect” (in English, wake effect). In other words, the zone of turbulence created in the air flow by the rotation of the blades. A phenomenon likely to affect the efficiency of other wind turbines located nearby.

“Parks that are too close together cannibalize each other, sums it up Handelsblatt. The number of hours at full load decreases, and with it the efficiency per turbine.” However, the lower the efficiency per turbine, the more difficult it will be for the operator to finance the commissioning of future parks. “Ultimately, electricity may become more expensive,” alert Jörg Kubitza.

Enough to call into question the plans of the federal agency responsible for delimiting the exploitation zones of territorial waters, which plans to increase the number of wind farms off the German coast. It’s about doing everything to achieve – “and even exceed”, according to its director – the objectives defined by the “traffic light” coalition currently in power in Germany, which brings together the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP) and the Alliance 90/The Greens.

“Not optimal” operating areas

The German government is targeting 30 gigawatts (GW) of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030, at least 40 GW in 2035 and 70 GW by 2045. “The North Sea can become the largest power station in the world”said Chancellor Olaf Scholz during the North Sea Summit which was held in Ostend, Belgium, in April 2023.

However, Jörg Kubitza is convinced that the areas demarcated for future offshore parks “are not optimal”. He is not the only one to hold this opinion, reports the Handelsblatt. “The areas defined in the most recent project will create large, closely spaced operating areas. This will create additional capacities, but also multiply the wake effects,” warns Stefan Thimm, head of the Federal Offshore Wind Energy Association (BWO).

A warning that also applies to neighboring countries, in particular the Netherlands, whose offshore farm projects could directly affect the production of German wind turbines.

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