Strong tailwind for renewables

Green Transition 9 November 2017 Per Halvor Bekkelund

Even countries that have access to an abundance of fossil fuels are turning to the cheaper wind energy. China and Norway are two of the most notable examples.

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The renewable energy industry is experiencing an unprecedented tailwind. As the Financial Times put it in an analysis earlier in 2017: “After years of hype and false starts, the shift to clean power has begun to accelerate at a pace that has taken the most experienced experts by surprise.” 

The shift has come as innovation in the private sector and increased government efforts to curb climate change and smog have driven down costs and spurred technical advances. 

One of the strongest single factors in this transition is that wind and solar parks are being built at unprecedented rates – also in countries that were previously very much into fossil fuels. 

Offshore export to China 

The global leader of this trend is the world’s biggest polluter, China, whose wind power market is growing fast. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, last year China had a market share of 43% of new-installed wind capacity, and the expansive growth is now happening at sea too. 

China plans to install 10 gigawatts of offshore wind energy before the end of 2020, and in 2015 Ramboll became the first non-Chinese advisor to design a large part of an offshore wind farm - namely the SPIC Binhai North H1 Offshore Wind Farm in the Jiangsu province. 

Later the collaboration continued with SPIC Binhai North H2 and the SPIC Binhai South H3 offshore wind farm in the Yellow Sea north of Shanghai. 

An important reason for this is that Ramboll has a market share of more than 60% of offshore wind foundations installed worldwide. The foundations have a bearing capacity capable of supporting turbines even in weak seabed soils – as is the case for Binhai North, which will be located 22 km off the coast in an area prone to earthquakes and very soft soil conditions.  

Largest onshore farm in Europe

Norway is another country with access to an abundance of fossil fuels. Here, too, you can feel the wind of change. 

On the Fosen peninsula about 50 km north of Trondheim in Norway, Fosen Vind is the largest onshore wind project in Europe and is highly competitive in terms of energy costs.

Including the central grid connection, the total investment will be in the range of NOK 20 billion, making it one of the largest investments ever made in land-based sectors of Norway. When finished, the wind turbines in the Fosen Vind project will generate enough electricity to power 170,000 households. 

Ramboll’s scope of responsibility includes hundreds of kilometres of electric cables, 62 kilometres of roads, geotechnical engineering as well as landscape and environmental issues in the highly complex terrain. 

“The project involves complicated access roads to get the turbines up on the mountains – and 80 hard stands and concrete foundations. Rough climate conditions throughout the year represent an added challenge,” states Per Halvor Bekkelund, Lead Consultant, Ramboll. 

In August 2016, Ramboll acquired two German advisory companies in onshore wind energy, and became one of the leading wind advisors globally.

Written by Michael Rothenborg.

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