North Sea Wind Clusters Demand Giant Platform

In the North Sea, energy developers are hoping to take advantage of the clustering of wind farms to make the process of bringing power to the grid more efficient. One result of that streamlining strategy will be some impressively large structures. And none, apparently, will be bigger than the platform that Drydocks World has won a contract to build in Dubai.

The length of a football field and 80 yards wide, the platform – dubbed, variously, Dolwin 2 and Dolwin Beta – will receive alternating current power from several offshore wind plants and convert it to direct current before sending it ashore through cables laid along the sea floor. The energy news site Recharge called it “the world’s biggest offshore wind platform.”

dolwin 2 beta platform drydocks world

image via ABB

Drydocks will build the platform for the Norwegian company Aibel, and expects to make delivery to Aibel’s yard in Haugesund, Norway, around December 2013. Once there it will then be fully outfitted for placement near Helgoland in the German sector of the North Sea.

Drydocks World might sound like someone’s very strange idea of an amusement park, where dredgers and jack-up rigs – maybe even ultra large crude carriers! – dazzle the kiddies, but actually it’s a ship building, repair and service yard. (It’s also a subsidiary of Dubai World, the investment firm that ran into big trouble with debt in 2009, which among other things has forced Drydocks World to undergo a major restructuring. But that’s a whole other story.)

In addition to Drydocks and Aibel, another big player in the DolWin 2 platform project is ABB, which won a contract from the Northern European grid giant TenneT to design, engineer, supply and actually install the offshore platform, as well as the offshore and onshore converter stations and the land and sea cable systems that will bring power to Germany’s grid. Gode Wind II, a 400-megawatt (MW) capacity plant in the North Sea, will be the main power generator, but the high-voltage direct current (HVDC) system going in will be rated at more than 900 MW, allowing for connection to additional plants.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.