RWE Invests in Environmental Tech for Onshore Wind Construction, Operations


RWE is testing two innovative, promising technologies at a new onshore wind farm in Spain. These technologies are intended to reduce the impact on the environment during the construction phase of the plant on the one hand and greenhouse gas emissions during subsequent operation on the other.

Specifically, the company has now made the investment decision for the Orkoien pilot project near Pamplona. There, in the north of the country, a 5.7 MW turbine is being built to gather experience with the two technologies. Construction works are underway, and commissioning is planned for summer 2023.

In the first method, special plastic mats are used for the first time in the construction phase. In temporary work areas such as access roads and storage areas, they minimize the construction-related impact on the soil. Normally, these areas are excavated and graveled. Now, only the surface is smoothed with the excavator. Then the access and storage areas are temporarily covered with the plastic overlays. Following the work, the vegetation can regenerate completely. The mats, which are partly made of recycled material, can be reused in other projects.

“Our strategy, which is geared towards sustainability, is not only based on the vigorous expansion of renewable energy,” states Katja Wünschel, CEO of onshore wind and solar for Europe and Australia at RWE Renewables. RWE is also devoting all its energy to the important task of producing green electricity in an even more environmentally friendly way. Along the way, our engineers are constantly on the lookout for innovative technologies to reduce the ecological footprint of our projects. The Orkoien wind turbine offers very good conditions for testing two novel processes under real-life conditions.”

A significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is made possible by the second technology, which is being used for the first time in the Orkoien pilot project. In the medium-voltage switchgear at the base of the turbine tower, the use of an insulating agent in the circuit breaker is necessary to interrupt the electrical currents by cooling and extinguishing the arc that occurs when a circuit is opened. Until now, the gas SF6 (sulphur hexafluoride), which is colorless, odorless, neither toxic nor flammable, and harmless to humans and animals, has been used for this purpose. However, SF6 is a greenhouse gas that impacts the climate. Therefore, it may only be used under strict conditions. With the use of “SF6-free switchgear,”

RWE is now testing an alternative that reduces greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero. This new, environmentally friendly technology relies 85% on dry air and 15% on C5 fluoroketones as an insulating agent. In addition to being environmentally friendly, the technology has the same technical reliability as SF6. RWE is thus also preparing for the SF6 ban announced by the EU in new plants from 2031.

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