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Floating offshore wind arrives in the UK

Published:  08 December, 2015

The UK’s first floating wind farm will be installed at the Hywind pilot park offshore, Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. This marks an important step forward for offshore wind technology, and potentially opens attractive new markets for renewable energy production worldwide. ODEE reports.

The world’s largest floating offshore wind development will be installed off the coast of Peterhead. Statoil proposes developing a pilot park of five floating 6 MW turbines, which will be located approximately 25km off the coast of Peterhead with a generating capacity of 135GWh of electricity each year. It is expected that the Hywind Scotland development could power up to 19,900 houses.

Unlike conventional turbines, Hywind turbines will be attached to the seabed by a three-point mooring spread and anchoring system.

The turbines will be connected by an inter-array of cables and an export cable will transport electricity from the pilot park to shore at Peterhead.

The Carbon Trust believe that floating wind concepts have the potential to reduce generating costs to below £100/MWh in commercial deployments, with the leading concepts such as Hywind, with even lower costs of £85-£95MWh.

Irene Rummelhoff, Statoil’s executive vice president for New Energy Solutions, commented: “Statoil is proud to develop the world’s first floating wind farm. Our objective with the Hywind pilot park is to demonstrate the feasibility of future commercial, utility-scale floating wind farms. This will further increase the global market potential for offshore wind energy, contributing to realising our ambition of profitable growth in renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions.”

The pilot park will cover around 4km2, at a water depth of 95-120 metres. The average wind speed in this area of the North Sea is around 10m per second.

Rummelhoff added: “We are very pleased to develop this project in Scotland, in a region with a huge wind resource and an experienced supply chain from oil and gas. Through industry and supportive policies, the UK and Scotland is taking a position at the forefront of developing offshore wind as a competitive new energy source.”

Welcoming Statoil’s Hywind development, Scotland’s deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Hywind is a hugely exciting project – in terms of electricity generation and technology innovation – and it’s a real testament to our energy sector expertise and skilled workforce that Statoil chose Scotland for the world’s largest floating wind farm.

“The momentum is building around the potential for floating offshore wind technology to unlock deeper water sites. The ability to leverage existing infrastructure and supply chain capabilities from the offshore oil and gas industry create the ideal conditions to position Scotland as a world leader in floating wind technology.”

The UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Amber Rudd added: “This is fantastic news for Scotland and the whole of the UK, demonstrating that we are open for business and that the UK’s offshore wind industry continues to go from strength to strength.

“This exciting project is a great example of how innovation can help to power our homes and add to our energy mix – offering clean, secure energy to Britain’s hardworking families and businesses.”

Statoil will work with several Scottish suppliers and partners on the project. The project will provide additional work for industry in Scotland and other countries. The onshore operation and maintenance base will be located in Peterhead, also drawing on resources from Statoil’s existing office in Aberdeen.

Hywind is an offshore wind technology developed and owned by Statoil. The company says the concept has been verified through six years of successful operation of a prototype installed off the island of Karmøy in Norway.

Statoil aims to begin onshore construction in 2015/16, and offshore construction in 2016/17. Final commissioning of the pilot park will be approximately 2017.

Credible form of low-carbon energy by mid 2020s

The announcement of the UK’s first floating wind farm comes just a couple of weeks after The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) said in a new report that floating offshore wind could be a credible, cost-effective form of low-carbon energy for the UK by the mid-2020's.

The reports says that with continued technology and supply chain development there is a clear and credible route to delivering commercial offshore wind farms.

Analysis carried out by the ETI suggests that floating wind technology has the potential to deliver a levelised cost of energy of less than £85/MWh from the mid-2020s, allowing it to compete with the lowest cost forms of low carbon generation.

The UK already has the world’s highest offshore wind capacity and in order to reduce costs further, there needs to be access to good quality wind resource, which is close enough to the shore and power users so that transmission costs are minimised and operations and maintenance costs reduced.

Floating offshore wind technology can open up new commercially exploitable sites in deeper water relatively close to the shore, which are currently inaccessible due to limitations in the depth to which fixed foundations can be deployed.

The Floating Wind Technology Insight uses evidence from the ETI’s Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME) tool, an internationally peer-reviewed national energy system design and planning capability, together with the findings from the ETI’s £62m Offshore Wind Programme.

The ETI believes the development and deployment of floating offshore wind technology is a key strategic issue for the UK to address and this will require investment in full scale technology demonstrators and the availability of suitable test sites.

Stuart Bradley, strategy manager, Offshore Renewables at the ETI and the report’s author said: “UK wind resources are abundant and are already being exploited, with the country having the world’s highest offshore wind capacity. Developing floating technology can provide access to additional high quality wind resources in deeper waters, relatively close to the UK shoreline and near centres of population, which will help bring costs down further.

“In water depths of less than 30m traditional fixed foundations will be the prime solution, but, in water depths over 50m floating foundations provide the lowest cost solution so a mix of these technologies is likely to offer the lowest cost pathway to deliver mass deployment in UK waters.

“Floating foundations are still some way from large scale deployment and the offshore wind industry is currently focused on delivering the Round 3 sites in shallower waters.

“At this stage there is little, if any, market pull for floating wind solutions and technology push will be needed until deeper water sites are provided so test sites and policies need to be in place to encourage the development of floating technology suitable for UK waters if it is to be available by the 2020s.”

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