Lots of energy to harness -- North Sea winds

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After three years of wind measurements at a site 45 kilometres off the German North Sea coast and level with the Danish border to the east, high average wind speeds close to 10 m/s have been recorded, significantly higher than the corresponding wind strengths measured on land, even in the corresponding coastal zone. Offshore wind power stations installed at the site of the measuring tower would be likely to achieve capacity factors in the range 50-55%, depending on the type of machine used, meaning that on average throughout the year, the facility would generate 55% of its rated capacity.

The offshore measuring program, financed by the German environment ministry, is also delivering information on extreme gusts, wave heights and solar radiation. Typical yearly maximum one-second gusts have been around 41 m/s, but the highest gust recorded so far was 45 m/s on December 31, 2006. The worst combination of wind and waves occurred on November 1, 2006 and caused noticeable damage to some of the measuring equipment. This was due to waves nearly 20 metres high, rather than the wind, an important consideration in the design of offshore wind turbines. The availability of the measuring sensors during the period was around 95%, reports the Deutsches Wind-Energie Institut. A second 100 metre mast, about 40 kilometres off the German Baltic Sea coast south of Sweden and again level with the Danish border to the west, has just been installed and was expected to start recording data last month.

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