Vestas Deploys Revolutionary Wind Turbine Platform in Australia's Macarthur Wind Farm Project
Reconfirming its commitment to a more sustainable future, Australia proudly announced the opening of the 420 MW Macarthur Wind Farm on April 11—the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere. But the magnitude of the project was not the only impressive feature of the $1 billion venture: it was also the first to purchase the Vestas V112-3.0 MW wind turbine, capable of picking up low to medium wind speed to fully take advantage Australia's vast wind resources. As a bonus, the project spurred job growth and was delivered three months ahead of schedule almost exactly on budget.
Under a joint venture between Australian-based AGL Energy and New Zealand-based Meridian Energy, Vestas, a leading international wind turbine manufacturer, commenced site work in late 2010 with the project partner Leighton Contractors. Vestas' new V112-3.0 MW turbines had never before been deployed, but held tremendous promise to set new industry benchmarks for the cost of energy per Gwh, boasting a larger rotor diameter and efficient power train design.
“Vestas won a project of international significance based on a product that was still just at a blue print stage,” says Giles Rinckes, Project Director. “But because of Vestas' reputation and the faith the customer had in the company, the investment was made swiftly and successfully.”
COME RAIN OR SHINE
That's not to say the project was shy of its own set of challenges. For the past decade, Australia had experienced a period of intense drought—a condition expected to continue throughout the construction phase in Macarthur. When the drought unexpectedly broke, however, heavy rainfall on site posed a number of significant challenges including the redesign of some of its civil works.
“Vestas and Leighton Contractors didn't leave or stop the progress,” says Rinckes. “We worked through the rain.”
It was a massive, technically complex job that required meeting high standards of grid compliance, pulling equipment from all over the world and intensive operations, coordination and planning on the ground.
“Despite all of the challenges, we finished in January of this year—three months ahead of schedule,” says Rinckes. “That's just a bonus to the quality of the job successfully delivered to the client.”
With a total of 140 of Vestas' V112-3.0 MW turbines, the Macarthur Wind Farm has a contracted power output of up to 420 MW, or enough to power 220,000 homes in Victoria. In a country where coal reigns, that equates to the diversion of some 1.7 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, according to Vestas.
In light of uncertain economic conditions, careful consideration was taken into account to ensure the farm would exceed its return on investment.
“We wanted to make sure that our business will survive in tough market conditions,” says Rinckes. “These turbines were selected specifically to match Macarthur's wind conditions and provide optimum generation for the customer over the next 20 years.”
During the construction stage, direct, indirect and induced employment resulted in 2,100 jobs and 115 long-term jobs over the life span of the farm, 30 per cent of which were filled by local workers. A number of local businesses, including manufacturers of turbine towers and leading travel tower fleet like Summit Tower Hire also contributed a fair share of contracted work.
“It's great to work with local companies close to the wind farm that we can invest in,” says Rinckes. “There's a whole host of Australian companies that are extremely competent in the wind energy space.”
With the Macarthur installation, Vestas has contributed to more than half of the cumulative wind energy capacity in Australia. Thanks to the country's efforts to reach its Renewable Energy Target of generating 20 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, Australia is now enjoying the benefits of large-scale clean energy investment. But the project's successful commissioning down under could have an even larger impact abroad.
With the majority of sites bearing high wind speed conditions already developed, Vestas' flagship turbine responds to one of the greatest limitations facing the industry: the ability to tap the huge potential available in low to medium wind sites in markets around the world.
“Based on the 3 MW turbine platform, we also just released a series of new turbines based on that same technology,” says Naveen Raghavan Balachandran, Senior Director, Business Development and Public Affairs at Vestas. “The new designs will be able to cater to the entire wind spectrum.”
The new variants include the V112-3.3 MW, the V117-3.3 MW and the V126-3.3 MW, all based on the same proven technology of machines deployed in Macarthur, enabling customers to benefit from energy production across low, medium and high wind sites.
“That's going to open up the possibilities for wind power in a lot more markets in environments no other wind energy company could successfully operate before,” says Balachandran, a revolutionary addition to the overall renewable energy market.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere