Golden Match: Integrating Storage at Offshore Wind Farms

November 28, 2017 | 08:00
Artist impression of an offshore transformer station for Borssele Alpha project (700 MW). Courtesy: TenneT
Artist impression of an offshore transformer station for Borssele Alpha project (700 MW). Courtesy: TenneT
Storing renewable energy has become a no-brainer. In wind farms at sea they offer huge opportunities. Out of sight and with plenty of space at its platforms, it’s pretty easy to scale up. Above all, it gives operators the possibility to store wind energy when prices are low or negative (and conversely: sell their electricity when prices are high). No wonder developers are teaming up with companies to ‘secure the golden match’: to integrate storage at wind farms.


First, let’s put this development into perspective: wind energy as well as energy storage have become increasingly cheaper. It’s not the wind turbine itself: prices of turbines have been more or less the same the last decade (approximately one million euro’s per MW).

No, it’s all about increasing yields of steadily bigger and far more efficient wind turbines: whereas the price per kWh of wind energy generated was more than 10 Euro cents in 2016 at Horns Rev (Denmark), beginning 2017 the price plummeted to 7,3 cent for Borssele I and II (NL), and even to 5,45 cent for Borssele III and IV the end of this year.

According to Henk Kamp, former Dutch minister of Economic Affairs, wind energy can do without subsidies pretty soon. The Netherlands will profit from tenders of German large-scale wind farms. It’s to be expected that the next tender for a wind farm can do almost without subsidies, in other words: when this farm will become operational, it is competitive with electricity generated by fossil fuels.

A similar development can be seen in storage. Although the market for battery storage, dominated by lithium-ion, is growing fast, prices don’t tell the whole story. Storage smooths out peaks and troughs of intermittent supplies from large-scale wind farms, especially when there’s a steadfastly wind (more than five on the scale of Beaufort) and there’s oversupply with low or even negative prices.

There’s more. According to reports published by EASE (European Association for Storage of Energy) energy storage has benefits to all levels of the energy system. With storage, Transmission System Operators (TSO’s) can better balance or reduce supply and demand or reduce curtailment. Also storage plays a role in frequency and voltage control. Finally storage is used as peak shaving and general demand response.

So it’s not without reason that operators and (digital) technology companies alike are diving into this vast expanding market. Crucial to the integration of renewable resources with storage, all experts agree, is software that enables them.

Take, for instance, General Electric’s ‘Brilliant Turbine Platform’. By way of its (combination of) applications it can connect to converters of wind turbines at sea up to 3 MW. The Ramp Control Application lets the turbine catch extra power of a quick windspeed increase while its Predictable Power app smooths out any short-term wind peaks and valleys over periods of 15 to 60 minutes.
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