Silicones for Safe Power Distribution - Wacker Chemie AG


Silicones for Safe Power Distribution

Cables are much more complicated and expensive to lay underground or at the bottom of the sea than above ground. Silicone elastomers from WACKER that have been modified to make them electrically conductive keep the current flowing reliably for decades and ensure that components remain safe.

Workers laying a 500-kilovolt undersea cable for China Southern Power Grid, the country’s second-largest power company.

The Sea Supplies the Most Wind

The wind rarely stops blowing over the oceans. Over the North Sea as well, the steady and more or less stiff breeze can be harnessed by wind turbines and converted into useful energy. The rotors of these wind turbines rise ever higher in the sky and are increasingly being installed where there is the most wind: far out to sea. Alpha Ventus, for example, the first German offshore wind farm, opened north of Borkum in November 2009 in 30 meters of water. Twelve wind turbines, each capable of generating five megawatts, provide electricity for about 50,000 homes. No other offshore wind farm in the world is farther away from a domestic power grid. Forty-five kilometers north of Borkum, the turbines of Alpha Ventus turn in the wind. The €250 million pioneering project has been borne by the three major German energy players – RWE, E.ON and Vattenfall – who formed a joint subsidiary to operate Alpha Ventus.

HARNESSING WIND ENERGY FOR ELECTRICITY

Wind energy has been flowing into the German power grid since the early 1990s. The northwest region of the country around Bremen, Oldenburg and Bremerhaven was one of the first areas to embrace the nascent wind power industry. This region is now one of the world’s most important producers ofwind turbines, and is a leader in wind power R&D.

More than 21,000 wind turbines in Germany are extracting energy from the air, feeding some 25,000 megawatts into the power grid and supplying more than seven percent of Germany’s total electricity consumption. Off-shore wind-energy use in Germany began with the Alpha Ventus project north of Borkum.

The World Energy Report predicts that wind energy will be able to meet at least 12% of global electricity demand in 2020. And that year, 1,500,000 me gawatts of wind energy should flow into the global power grid, according to the World Wind Energy Association. A study by the Energy Watch Group, based on four scenarios, shows that the combined output from all renewable energy sources would meet more than 50% of global electricity demand.

Reliably Transmitting Power Everywhere

Offshore turbines cannot use overhead power lines for transmission, but must rely on undersea cables. The damp conditions of the North Sea and its tidal flats, which separate the East Frisian islands from the mainland to the south, calls for very rugged, durable materials that can dependably transport power to the substations. On land, too, the power grid is rapidly going underground. “Some cable routes provide entire neighborhoods with power, and city transport networks, such as subway and suburban train lines, also need to be able to rely on these components,” says Prof. Jürgen Pilling, former professor of electrical engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Zittau and subsequently head of development at Cellpack Electrical Products GmbH.

It is much more complicated and expensive to lay cable underground or at the bottom of the ocean than above ground. For this reason alone, the components need to work perfectly for decades on end. “The future of the renewable energy sector lies in cable, with its decentralized power generation,” says Pilling, adding that further expansion of electronic mobility also requires an infrastructure built on dependable electrical wiring.