Wind Farm Construction
Last Updated : 02/09/2008
- Do you have to be a big company to build a wind farm or can anyone build one?
- How can I tell if my land is suitable for the construction of a wind farm? What are the factors that need to be considered?
- Given that my site is suitable. What do you realistically need to construct a wind farm?
- Who are the builders? Are they specialised builders?
- Who are the wind turbine suppliers /installers/architects?
- What are the construction options? Are all wind farms the same? (sizes, Types of turbines etc..)
- Is the market for Wind Turbines stable? Is there a possibility of scarcity of materials in the future?
- What are the specific financial requirements?
- What about offshore development? Is it the government's role? Is private offshore planning permitted?
- Will I able to use the electricity I generate to power the wind farm itself?
No, there are no regulations governing the type of person or company that is legally allowed to build a wind farm. Both companies and private individuals alike may decide to build.
While many wind farms are constructed as a new addition to an energy company's generation portfolio, there are a number of private individual's who take on the challenge of wind energy production themselves by setting up their own company.
How can I tell if my land is suitable for the construction of a wind farm? What are the factors that need to be considered?
There are many different factors to be considered before determining whether or not your land is a suitable site for a wind farm. These include the proximity to natural obstructions such as hills or forests, the nature and condition and suitability of the land in terms of supporting the foundations for a turbine and most importantly the average wind speed. A couple of steps you can first follow before seeking professional assistance are:
Look for your lands on the SEI wind atlas and note the wind speed above your lands. Zoom in to your land area then click "info" and then click on your land again to view the approximated wind speed for your area. A commercial wind speed is generally considered to be above 8 m/s (metres per second) at hub height. Please note however, that proper wind speed data can only be attained by erecting a meteorological monitoring mast for a period of not less than 1 year. It is best practice, to carry out an full anemometric survey of the site to determine whether or not the particular site in question is economically feasible.
For those in the republic, look up the current (or draft) County Development Plan for policy and maps showing where wind farms are allowed in your county (if available). Typically there are be 3 zonings:
ii. Open to Consideration and
iii. No Go Areas.
Realistically, in order to construct a wind farm a developer needs 4 essentials, namely; a grid connection agreement, planning, plant and a price agreement.
Securing a grid connection from the systems operator is crucial as without it you wont be able to load your electricity onto the grid and sell it. Any delay in connection will result in forgone revenues which may be crucial to the financial stability of the project.
Secondly, in order to build your wind farm you need to have secured all the relevant planning permission for the construction of the actual farm. Also, separate planning permission needs to be secured by the party responsible for building the connection to the grid and the associated works.
Thirdly, you need the actual plant itself. As a developer you want your turbines to arrive on site, exactly when you want them. Turbines need to be ordered well in advance and timed in such a fashion that they are delivered just when you are ready to begin construction. An unprepared site without any access roads will cause many problems if turbines are delivered too early, while any delay in turbine delivery will result in delaying the first operational date and its associated revenue. This revenue delay may result in losses due to an delay in the ability to meet loan repayments.
Finally you need is a price agreement. This may take the form of a power purchase agreement with a supplier, or you made decide to become a supplier yourself and also obtain the benefits of the Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff scheme. The securing of a price agreement is crucial when it comes to seeking finance for the project. When calculating the risk and determining whether or not to loan you the funds for the project, a bank wants as much assurance as it can get that the developer will be in a position to pay back the loan with a secured steady revenue stream.
While wind farm site works and turbine foundations may be built by any competent contractor, there are a number of engineering and construction companies who have considerable experience in this area, some who fulfill the roles of project development and/or project management.
For further details about those companies who specialise in the wind industry, please consult our Members Services Directory
There are a number of international and national companies who specialise in both large scale and micro generation turbine manufacturing. Similarly, a number of "Turn Key" contractors are available who are responsible for getting a wind farm up and running, post-construction.
Regarding architects, it is possible for any suitably qualified architect to design a wind farm taking into account the special characteristics of both the site and the proposed farm, however there are several companies in Ireland who have considerable amount of experience in the wind industry
For further information on Turbine Suppliers, Turn Key contractors and Architects available please consult our Member Services Directory
Wind turbines come in many different shapes and sizes and are designed to a certain maximum output capacity. The suitability of a specific turbine for your wind farm will depend on many factors including (but not exclusively), ground conditions, finance available, size threshold for planning permission and most importantly the wind resource.
Despite differences in turbine design and size, most wind farms will share similar characteristics. In particular, site works such as access roads, underground conduits and foundations for substations are common to all large scale wind farms.
The type of foundation to be used is an element of construction what may be more particular to your site. Ground conditions ranging from bedrock to bog will require different foundation design with those sites situated on more solid ground likely to benefit from lower foundation costs if fewer raw materials are needed.
Is the market for Wind Turbines stable? Is there a possibility of scarcity of materials in the future?
As with any product there is always a risk of scarcity of materials due to unforeseen factors especially in the long-run. Initial decisions on whether to proceed with the preliminary processes of development may be made by incorporating quotes from turbine suppliers. However in terms of the turbine market for today's developer, the risks associated can be minimised with an agreed and secured contract of delivery and price from your turbine supplier.
In terms of the financial requirements, a wind farm development should be treated the same as any other capital investment and needs professional initial project management and planning to increase the likelihood of securing backing from a financial institution.
Administration costs, building costs, site infrastructural costs, turbine costs and where applicable gird connection costs should all be budgeted and priced as accurately as possible together with accurately predicted revenues. Again, a solidly planned and designed project will be taken more seriously by the banks and will increase the chances of securing finance for your development.
What about offshore development? Is it the government's role? Is private offshore planning permitted?
In terms of off-shore wind the government see it's role as primarily to aid, encourage and support private investment in the sector. It is no longer likely that a Feed in Tariff will be provided for offshore wind projects in Ireland in the next few years, however the Government has announced its commitment to progressing the Ireland-UK intergovernmental energy trade agreement to enable the export of wind energy from Ireland. Offshore wind energy in Ireland can be developed in a way that can contribute to the UK renewable energy targets.
For more information please view our Off-Shore section