Offshore wind industry commits €3.9m to researching blockage effects

A consortium featuring major offshore developers launches a research project into global blockage effects that can skew energy-yield forecasts

The Nordsee Ost project is one of two RWE-owned sites where research will be conducted (pic: Jan Oelker/Senvion)
The Nordsee Ost project is one of two RWE-owned sites where research will be conducted (pic: Jan Oelker/Senvion)

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Announced today (4 February), the joint industry initiative – delivered by the Carbon Trust's flagship Offshore Wind Accelerator project – will monitor real offshore conditions to gauge the effect of blockages at a global scale.

Led by RWE Renewables, the Global Blockage Effect in Offshore Wind (OWA Globe) project will spend €3.9 million to produce a comprehensive dataset that can be used as the industry benchmark for assessing and quantifying the impact of the blockage effect on energy production.

The refers to the way the wind flows around any obstacle it encounters, which may affect the predicted outout of wind turbines ifnot all aspects have been taken into account.

Richard Sandford, director of offshore wind development in Europe at RWE Renewables, said the offshore wind industry would “benefit immensely” from the data collected in the project.

“By appraising and testing various industry hypotheses under live conditions, we will be able to close existing knowledge gaps and reach an industry-wide consensus on the effect," he said in a statement.

“OWA Globe can increase certainty in offshore wind energy yield estimates and thereby help lower the Levelized Cost of Energy.”

The blockage effect is a phenomenon that occurs as a complex interaction between the atmosphere and wind as it flows through, over and around, large offshore wind farms.

As wind approaches an obstacle — the blockage — its flow slows down and diverts around it ­— hence the blockage effect. The effect is subtle, difficult to measure and hard to extract from previous data sets, creating uncertainties in current models.

While there is a broad industry consensus that wind-farm-scale blockage effects cause decelerations in front of offshore wind farms (which reduces the energy yield), different opinions exist on how to consider its downstream impacts and how to account for the redistribution of energy.

The new research will be conducted at the Heligoland wind farm cluster in the German Bight consisting of the 295MW Nordsee Ost Nordsee Ost (295MW) Offshorenorth of Helgoland, Germany, Europe Click to see full details and 303MW Amrumbank West Amrumbank West (303MW) Offshorenorth of Helgoland and west of Amrum, Germany, Europe Click to see full details wind farms, which are both owned by RWE. 

The two wind farms are separated by a strip of empty sea approximately 4km wide, known as the Kaskasi gap, where RWE will construct the 342MW Kaskasi Kaskasi (342MW) Offshoreoff Heligoland, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Europe Click to see full details wind farm, anticipated to be commissioned in 2022.

Using dual-doppler scanning light detection and ranging (Lidar) measurements alongside turbine production data, the project is designed to assess blockage effects at full-scale and observe the atmospheric phenomena that drive it. 

The project consortium currently includes of six additional wind farm developers: EDF Renewables, EnBW, Equinor, ScottishPower Renewables, Shell and Vattenfall, along with research and industry partners DTU Wind Energy and Leosphere. 

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