Alpha Ventus performed 15% above expectations in 2011

Germany's first commissioned offshore wind station, the 12 turbine, 60MW Alpha Ventus facility, performed notably better than forecast last year

Alpha Ventus generated 270TWh in 2011, 15% more than expected. "After this very positive wind yield, the generation forecast for 2012 has been increased to about 220 GWh," said Katharina Selinger, spokesperson for Alpha Ventus.In 2010, while still in test operation, the station generated 170.8GWh.

This is welcome news given that the German offshore wind sector is fighting to maintain its relevance in the eyes of policymakers tasked with leading the country through a transition away from fossil and nuclear-fuelled power and toward renewables. Rapid expansion of solar photovoltaic (pv) installations is one threat to offshore wind.

German offshore wind capacity currently stands at about 215MW, while solar pv capacity is far greater, standing at about 27GW.

Last year, the station clocked up 4,400 full-load hours, equivalent to an operating efficiency of 50%, highlighting offshore wind's advantage over solar power which, when not combined with electricity storage, generates only during daylight hours - or up to around 1,000 full load hours per year.

"The Alpha Ventus test project proves that offshore wind farms can be economically and commercially viable in Germany in the long term despite challenging conditions, such as long distances from the coast line and greater water depths," commented Claus Burkhardt, managing director of Deutsche Offshore Testfield und Infrastruktur (DOTI), the station’s owner operator, and managing director of EWE-Offshore Service & Solutions.

Despite the strong performance of Alpha Ventus, its owner operator continues to face financial challenges. With revenue of €40.1 million in 2011, DOTI made a net loss of €7.4 million. This was distributed between DOTI’s three owners, according to their respective shares. Electricity utility EWE holds a 47.5% share in DOTI, with energy major E.on and Swedish state-owned Vattenfall Europe each owning 26.25%.

Comprising six Areva Wind and six Repower Systems turbines, each with 5MW capacity, Alpha Ventus started test operation in November 2009 and is the focus of several government-supported research projects under the umbrella name RAVE, Research at Alpha Ventus.  Thirty three individual research projects with a total budget of €51.7 million and involving 45 institutes and companies are underway. These include projects: monitoring construction and operation; looking at aspects such as how air streams are affected when they pass through an offshore wind station;  processing information collected by about 1200 sensors built into the turbines; as well as investigation of the effects on marine life and tourism.

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