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Themeninfos – A compact guide to energy research

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Basic research and stress tests
Themeninfo I/2012
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RAVE - Research on the offshore test field

High, far, deep and rough - this is how the RAVE research initiative itself describes the typical challenges faced by offshore wind energy. During the next few years, a dozen large-scale wind farms are being installed far off the coast of Germany in the North and Baltic seas. These are already earmarked to make up more than one third of the installed wind energy output by 2020. The sea-based wind farms will therefore make a considerable contribution to generating 35% of electricity from renewable energies by 2020, as envisaged by Germany´s energy policy.

That is roughly twice that produced in 2011. Since Germany’s near-shore maritime areas are almost entirely protected as nature conservation areas, only areas in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) can be considered for offshore wind energy, i.e. beyond the 12-mile zone. This means that, in comparison with our European neighbours, these wind farms will be situated further away from the coast and at greater depths.

Even if onshore wind energy has by no means exploited all the existing possibilities (e.g. repowering), the offshore wind sector offers new and interesting prospects for generating electricity. Here the wind speeds are greater than on land throughout the year and there is less turbulence. At sea it is also not necessary to limit the height of the wind turbines. On the other hand, however, there are greater investment and operating costs. The maintenance and repair of the wind turbines are also considerably more complex than on land.

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The offshore sector therefore represents a considerable challenge in terms of the technology. The turbines have to be specially adapted in order to withstand the severe storms and squalls, the interaction between wind and wave energy, and the salty atmosphere. In addition, the wind farms have to be compatible with the marine ecosystem. For this reason, technological, marine and ecological aspects have been researched for more than ten years in order to determine the necessary long-term data for the technology and to protect nature. For example, Germany operates three automatic research platforms in the middle of the North and Baltic seas for this purpose: FINO 1 – 3. The next stage was taken in April 2010 when the German offshore test field “alpha ventus” commenced operation with 12 wind turbines. In 2011, 267 million kWh of wind power were produced there. As part of the applied research, operationally relevant research projects are in particular conducted here under the aforementioned RAVE name. The following pages provide an overview of the preliminary findings from the research initiative.

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Conference

RAVE International Conference
May 8 – 10, 2012
Bremerhaven, Germany
www.rave2012.de

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Movie

A 16 minute long movie showing "Alpha ventus".

RAVE Online

The online portal of the RAVE research initiative. It provides an overview of the complete spectrum of topics and, in addition to information sheets (RAVE Info), it also provides scientific documentation with unique photos of alpha ventus, selected research projects and 3D animations.

The alpha ventus test field is also presented online, providing a comprehensive overview of the construction and operation of the test field as well as the latest news.