March 2013

New strategic direction for ECN Wind Energy

In 2016, ECN wants to be a global leader in innovative solutions aimed at significantly lowering the cost of offshore wind energy. To even better respond to market trends, ECN is expanding its research on wind farm components with research and application of knowledge on integral wind farm systems. The experimental validation of new knowledge will play a crucial role in addition to the integral modeling of costs and benefits for the client.

Priority areas

Today, ECN as knowledge institute is already an important player in the world of wind energy. Our unique, national and European research contributes to the transition to a sustainable energy system. We collaborate closely with various national and international partners, focusing on the following priority areas:

  • wind farm design and components,
  • support constructions,
  • condition monitoring and operational management,
  • electrical infrastructure for wind farms, 
  • meteorology in relation to forecasting and measuring the wind climate,
  • innovative measuring and measurement infrastructure.

Scenarios for 2020

Aart van der Pal, unit director of ECN Wind Energy, clarifies the new strategic direction: “We have observed that the national and international wind energy market has a need for independent institutes such as ECN. Our high-quality knowledge and over 30 years of experience in research are well-aligned to the renewable energy objectives for 2020 of Germany, the UK, and more recently, the Netherlands. In all scenarios there is an important role for wind energy. Offshore wind farms will start operating as power plants. However, wind energy can only become a real alternative to conventional power generation if we succeed in bringing down its costs.”

Validated solutions

A pioneer from the very beginning, ECN has built up a unique and still growing knowledge base for the important aspects of onshore and offshore wind energy. From this knowledge base, we are able to provide innovative solutions: provide suggestions for improving the operational management of our clients, but we can also calculate which efficiency increase can be realised with a proposed innovation. To arrive at reliable forecasts, ECN has leading measurement and test facilities at its disposal, such as a wind turbine test facility in the Wieringermeer area and a network of wind measurement masts at sea. In the period up to 2016, we will further expand our measurement and test facilities. This way we can address the growing demand for validated solutions.

New clients and partners

The new strategic direction means that there will be a shift in ECN clientele and partners. Not only wind turbine manufacturers and designers of support constructions are among our clients; wind farm designers, investors and owners/operators of wind farms are also increasingly finding their way to us. During a first inventory aimed at some large players in the European market for wind energy, our intention to expand our services with integral solutions met with great enthusiasm.

Young technology

Aart van der Pal understands where this enthusiasm is coming from: “Particularly offshore wind energy is still a young technology”, he explains. “The first generation of offshore wind turbines and wind farms has not even reached the end of its life cycle yet. This means that there is much room for improvement to reduce the costs, to improve the efficiency and to rapidly increase the output. Even a cost reduction of just one per cent is already significant and for the average wind farm it will result in a benefit of millions of euros. A price reduction from 18 to 10 eurocent per kilowatt-hour in 2020 is within reach.   ECN can and will do its utmost to contribute to this.”

Click here to see an overview of ECN’s activities in the field of wind energy.

Are you active in the wind energy sector and are you interested in learning how ECN can help you increase your output? Haico van der Heijden will gladly discuss a preliminary exploration with you. Give him a call at +31 6 130 66 130.