Oman’s first wind farm set to be high-tech

Oman’s maiden wind farm project, currently in the early stages of implementation in Dhofar Governorate, will feature desert-resistant turbines and other cutting-edge technologies to ensure they deliver peak output even in challenging environmental conditions, according to the project’s technology provider.
GE Renewable Energy, a division of multinational digital industrial conglomerate General Electric, says it is modifying its existing 3.x wind turbine platform to develop a desert package suited to the extreme heat conditions and sandstorms prevalent in the area where the wind farm is located.
“As GE Renewable Energy, we are proud to have our advanced wind technology be selected for the first wind farm in Oman,” said Dr Manar al Moneef, General Manager of GE Renewable Energy in Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.
Construction work on the 50-MW wind farm has commenced on a site in the Fetkhit area in the of Wilayat of Shaleem and Halaniyat Islands in the Governorate of Dhofar. The Rural Areas Electricity Company (RAECO), part of Nama Group, is overseeing the establishment of the project. The Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), the project developer, has awarded a contract for its execution to an international consortium comprising General Electric and TSK. Total investment during the Engineering-Procurement-Construction (EPC) phase is estimated at $105 million.
“Currently, the road works, civil works and foundation works are ongoing until September. During September, the delivery of the main components is expected to begin, which is ahead of schedule,” said GE in comments e-mailed to the Observer.
According to the technology provider, heat and sand make it difficult for normal wind turbines to operate in desert conditions. A technological upgrade was thus required to cool the turbines and keep the sand from getting inside the machines.
“The interior of any wind turbine needs to stay below the crucial level of 55 degrees Celsius (131 degrees Fahrenheit). Anything hotter knocks out heat-sensitive electronic components. Extreme temperatures also punish turbine machinery. For example, the lubrication oil for the turbine’s gearbox goes runny in the heat, which causes grinding in the gears,” the Paris-headquartered company said.
A standard, unmodified wind turbine can work at full power only up to an outside temperature of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). A temperature between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius reduces its power capacity. It shuts down completely when the mercury tops 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
“The newly-modified turbine can work 5 degrees Celsius above normal levels. That’s enough for Oman, where the average maximum summertime temperature is 45 degrees Celsius.
“With these engineering modifications, the self-cooling, vented turbine can produce electricity at 100 per cent of its generation capacity until the outside temperature reaches 40 degrees Celsius and can still produce power between 40 and 45 degrees Celsius,” GE Renewable Energy explained.
“This means that the wind turbines could stay online in Oman’s broiling midday heat. This is a boon for the 13-turbine wind farm in Dhofar, which will produce a maximum of 50 MW when it comes online in early 2019. That translates to hundreds of extra megawatt hours per day for both Masdar, the developer, and the country’s grid,” the company pointed out.
Significantly, GE has pledged to support Oman’s newly unveiled ambitions in the renewable energy space. “GE is committed to continuing to support the development of Oman’s renewable energy portfolio and to play an active role in the achievement of Oman’s renewables goals,” said Dr Al Moneef.
“GE considers that Oman is a strategic country in the region, and our footprint and presence shows our commitment to the country. We are not only interested in developing wind energy because of our historical presence in Oman, but because we strongly believe that this technology can bring an added value to the Omani energy mix especially as we believe that on a long-term basis, we consider that wind can be as competitive as traditional sources of energy.
At this stage, we are investigating the best way to develop a wind supply chain in the country that can feed the wind projects to come in Oman and potentially be available to export as well.
These kinds of projects will certainly require the establishment of strategic partnerships with major stakeholders in Oman, from either the public and private sector. Working hand in hand with Omani companies is indeed a priority for GE,” he added.