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.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.