Wind turbines seen as option for island
Bermuda should consider all options, including offshore wind turbines, as it looks at future energy sources.
There are strong reasons for this, according to Jens Alers, who touched on these as he spoke about a new style of ship being used to maintain offshore wind farms.
The US is looking at the possibility of wind farm operations off its east coast, and the technology is increasingly being used in other places, including Europe.
Mr Alers sees such developments opening up possibilities for Bermuda. He is group director of Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Bermuda), which has offices in Par-la-Ville Road.
Bernhard Schulte Offshore, part of the Schulte Group, won a tender to provide a new service operation vessel to give maintenance support for a wind farm off the coast of Germany. The Bernhard Schulte group all ready has two ships servicing wind farms in the North Sea.
The new vessel will accommodate about 80 technicians and crew. The technicians will be able to use a “walk to work” bridge on the ship to access the wind turbines and carry out repairs and maintenance from within the structures.
The vessel will be put to work at a offshore installation where each of the 66 wind turbines generates up to six megawatts.
Such large expanses of turbines would not be needed to cover the energy demands of Bermuda. Mr Alers believes that 15 similar turbines would likely be sufficient.
He acknowledges there are challenges, but said solutions are also available.
Bermuda is seeking a new energy plan for the future. The Integrated Resource Plan has placed a focus renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and biomass technology.
Mr Alers said Bermuda should consider all options.
“Wind is one, solar — given where we are — is the strongest. LNG (liquefied natural gas) is not the strongest because it is very expensive to create the infrastructure for it. But propane, which is already imported into the island and has an existing distribution network, belongs in the mix,” he said.
When it comes to offshore wind turbines, he said Bermuda could, technically, have its energy needs met by about 15 of the six-megawatt turbines, although in practice it would likely install fewer.
“We would not want to just rely on wind. Plus, the Sargasso Sea, where we are, is not the windiest of areas. Efficiency of turbines would be less near Bermuda than in the North Sea.”
There are other challenges. Mr Alers said: “We really have to look at an environmental feasibility study, because these things have a foundation. You would need to ram them into the reef. They are basically built into the ocean floor.
“I’m sure there would be quite a few people who would have something to say about embedding these things into our reefs, and I totally understand that.”
He mentioned research off the coast of Portugal into floating turbines that are anchored to the sea floor, something that could be less environmentally intrusive.
As for the issue of hurricanes. Mr Alers said: “Well, you can stop these things. A winter storm in the North Sea is no different to a hurricane. Companies have been operating wind farms in the North Sea for quite a few years.”
If Bermuda did have a small scale installation of offshore wind turbines, it would need to find a way to carry out maintenance, but not necessarily with a dedicated service operation vessel.
Mr Alers said six or ten turbines would not require the full-time deployment of a support ship.
“It would be very expensive for Bermuda to operate a ship like that, so other solutions would need to be found. But it can be done.”
He said US states from Maine to South Carolina are keen on developing offshore wind farms.
“The US will build a massive number of offshore wind farms. The aim is to be at about 20 gigawatts in just ten years from now,” Mr Alers said.
“Because those wind farms require maintenance and support ships and we are not very far from that in Bermuda, our endeavours to develop wind technology could benefit.
“Of course it’s not something to rely on 100 per cent. It has never been good to rely on one source.”
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