Winds of Change

Four ways to maximise the decarbonisation of onshore windfarms

In recent years the decarbonisation of electricity in the UK has been driven by a move away from coal and the rapid introduction of renewables.  Since 2012 the percentage of electricity generated by renewables in the UK has increase from 11.4% to 39.5% .  At the same time the average carbon intensity of electricity in the UK has reduced from 457 kgCO2/kWh to 281 kgCO2/kWh .  However, since the removal of subsidies for onshore wind in 2016 the deployment of onshore wind in the UK has stalled and is now reliant on reducing costs. 

We work with clients, by looking at the full life-cycle of a project, to identify incremental gains that can add up to a big saving so that our clients can develop their onshore windfarms and contribute to decarbonisation of the grid in the UK.  Four areas of focus to maximise gains include:

1. Reducing capital expenditure
Standard designs lead to standard costs. By challenging every aspect of the design of the windfarm, you can chip away at the capital expenditure.f the design of the windfarm, you can chip away at the capital expenditure.

2. Maximising grid connection potential
With windfarms typically sited in remote locations, connections to the grid can be expensive. So it’s important to make the most of them. A windfarm would usually get a grid connection based on its rated capacity, but losses and intermittency mean it would never use its full connection. There are two solutions to this: overbuilding and colocation.

Overbuilding maximises the output at the point of connection incorporating these losses. 

Colocation takes advantage of the intermittency of wind by developing on the same site to take up the slack in the grid connection.
To support, you could install solar power, which will produce more energy at less windy times of the year. Or maybe battery storage, enabling you to further overbuild your windfarm and store excess energy. This option is growing in popularity as battery costs plummet.

3. Extending life
Wind turbines have traditionally been designed for a 20-year lifespan. Why shouldn’t they be designed to last 25 or 30 years, reducing their overall lifecycle cost and enabling them to go on producing revenue for longer? Life extension is an area we’re increasingly advising clients about.

4. Thinking big is key
Economies of scale have an impact. By using larger rotors, higher hub heights, or developing bigger windfarms, developers can get better energy density and capacity factors – lowering their costs per MW.  Ten years ago, the market was dominated by wind turbine generators with 90m rotors. Now diameters are considerably bigger; in excess of 150m. This means that you can get more MWh from your site.

Our power and energy team in the UK are leading providers of engineering and project management services to the global power and energy market. We offer expertise in power generation; transmission and distribution; energy storage and renewable energy technologies including onshore and offshore wind, solar PV, Hydro and geothermal. For onshore wind, we have provided technical advice to enable development of over 5GW of projects.

By working with our clients to reduce costs we are enabling them to develop their windfarms which contribute to the decarbonisation of grid electricity in the UK and globally.

By Kimberley Dewhirst - Onshore Wind Technology Lead, Energy

More on this subject