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Bonfiglioli yaw and pitch drives have been selected for Germany’s ‘Alpha Ventus’ offshore wind farm, expected to generate enough electricity to power 50,000 homes.

Located in 30m waters, 45km off the German island of Borkum in the North Sea, the wind park features 12 wind towers, each generating 5MW of energy.

The important project, which represents an investment of 250 million euros, marks the beginning of a new era in environmentally-friendly power generation in Germany.

Commissioned in 2010, Alpha Ventus is the first of several wind farms Germany plans for its northern coastline.

The government has approved plans to develop up to 40 offshore wind parks that could provide electricity to eight million households.

Bonfiglioli’s gearboxes were selected to control the yaw angle of each turbine tower, as well as the pitch of the blades.

During an official commissioning ceremony, Dr Norbert Rottgen, Germany’s federal environment minister, said: ‘Investors, turbine manufacturers and grid operators have all taken a great risk with this test field.

‘Their steadfast commitment, perseverance and creativity have paid off – the experience gained during the construction of Alpha Ventus will benefit all future offshore wind farms.’ Sophisticated transmissions incorporating planetary drives and frequency converter control are used in drive systems for wind generators ranging in size from small systems for village power supply in India through to 5MW leviathans.

According to Malcolm Lewis, the managing director of Bonfiglioli Transmission (Australia), these rugged, reliable and compact drive systems, through incorporating technology already proved in Australasian industrial applications ranging from mining to manufacturing and materials handling, provide as high as possible an energy yield and as low as possible risk potential for the system at the same time.

With their help, the generator’s gondola (and thus the wind turbine) is constantly matched to the wind direction on the one hand, while on the other, the rotor blades are brought into an ideal position.

Operation at an optimal speed is decisive for the efficiency of the energy-producing drive train, extending from the rotor to the generator.

If it turns too slowly, insufficient energy will be produced; if it turns too quickly, there are dangers to the complete wind turbine, Lewis said.

Bonfiglioli has invested extensively in Australia and New Zealand to extend its range and capabilities across the spectrum here.

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