Danish Wind Turbines Take Unfortunate Turn

Problems at showcase Horns Rev project provide wind energy critics with ammunition

3 min read

The world's largest producer of wind turbines, and the whole idea of large-scale wind energy itself, suffered a setback this summer with news that all the turbines at Denmark's Horns Rev (Reef)--the biggest offshore wind farm built to date--would be moved to shore for repair and replacement of defective transformers and generators. Vestas Wind System A/S in Ringkøbing blamed harsh sea conditions for the substandard performance of equipment supplied by ABB Ltd., the Swedish-Swiss energy conglomerate headquartered in Zurich. The generator and transformer problems made it necessary to retrofit all 81 of the 2-megawatt turbines, at considerable expense.

Vestas, the world's leading wind technology supplier, installed the Horns Rev turbines in 2002, under contract with Denmark's biggest power producer, Elsam A/S in Fredericia [see photo, " Let It Blow"]. The mishap at Horns Rev is especially embarrassing because similar problems arose at the first big wind farm Vestas installed, near Copenhagen. The company had expressed confidence when erecting the Horns Rev turbines that this time things would go more smoothly.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

Keep Reading ↓Show less