Offshore farm, North Sea

The marine weather service is reporting force 9 gusts. So?

High waves and furious spray are one of nature’s great spectacles. The forces that the sea and the wind can unleash are extraordinary. And they place considerable demands on the engineering of offshore wind farms. But structural engineering is just one part of the equation. The operation of electrical systems is quite another. Sea air and salt water are anathema to electromechanical drive systems. Only copper can conduct electricity perfectly and stand up to aggressive atmospheres without corroding. A special copper-nickel coating also prevents algae growth, which saves money and minimises the damage potentially caused by maintenance boats.

A ring generator’s stator and rotor windings contain se­veral hundred kilometres of flat and round wire. Copper is also used in the transformers, power cables and earthing cables. Up to 30 tonnes of copper can be installed between an offshore wind turbine and its mains connection point. The same applies to solar power. Aside from its use in wiring, copper is indispensible there because of yet another of its properties: it can be bent without compromising its conductivity. The solar cells used in photovoltaics contain copper-coated conductor strips on films that are curved. No other material will play along so easily.

Practically every new energy road that is being explored leads invariably to copper. It’s used in every kind of distribution – high, medium and low voltage networks. More than 60% of all copper applications involve electrical engineering and applications. Copper’s net energy balance is also admirable. The relationship between CO2 consumption in production and CO2 savings is 1:150. It is gratifying to think that we in Hettstedt can help reduce carbon emissions worldwide. Wind and weather can certainly be harsh, but our copper doesn’t hold it against them. It is not a vengeful metal.

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