The Scottish government has approved plans to develop what would be the world’s largest floating wind farm, off the cost of Peterhead.
The 30MW Hywind pilot project, set for construction in 2016 by Norwegian oil and gas giant Statoil, will consist of five 6MW floating wind turbines – enough to power nearly 20,000 UK homes.
The turbines will be attached to the seabed by a three-point mooring spread and anchoring system, and will transport electricity via an undersea cable from the pilot park to the shore at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire just over 25km away.
The anchoring design of the floating turbines makes them easier and cheaper to install in deep water than other traditional offshore wind turbines, which are rigidly attached to the seabed.
Statoil hopes the pilot project – due to be commissioned in early 2017 – will successfully demonstrate the technology on a commercial, utility-scale, to increase its global market potential.
“Floating wind represents a new, significant and increasingly competitive renewable energy source,” said Statoil’s executive vice president for new energy solutions, Irene Rummelhoff.
“We are proud to develop this unique project in Scotland, in a region that has optimal wind conditions, a strong supply chain within oil and gas and supportive public policies.”
Indeed, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney has described Hywind as a “hugely exciting project in terms of electricity generation and technology innovation”.
“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,” he said.
Last month the UK’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) released a report indicating that floating offshore wind could be a credible, cost-effective form of low-carbon energy for the region by the mid-2020’s.
The Guardian cites research from the Carbon Trust that has suggested floating wind concepts could potentially reduce generating costs for offshore developments to below £100MWh ($A215.62/MWH), with larger concepts such as Hywind producing even lower costs of £85-95MWh ($A183-$A204/MWh). Currently the global average levelised cost of electricity for offshore projects is £112MWh.
France also hopes to test floating offshore wind on a large scale, with the launch of a tender in April 2016. As we reported here in August, the French government has made €150 million ($1US63.53 million) available for the project, a third as investment subsidies and two-thirds as loans.
Reuters reported at the time that feed-in tariff bids were expected to range between €150-€275 ($A230-$A420) per megawatt-hour, according to industry specialists, who expected the government to select two or three bids with a total combined capacity of 45-100MW, depending on the number and size of the turbines proposed.
And of the non-floating offshore wind farm variety, Denmark’s Dong Energy announced just last week that it was set to build the world’s biggest example – 660MW – in the Irish Sea, around 19 kilometres off the coast of Cumbria.
Dong will use turbines built by MHI Vestas Offshore Wind and Siemens, allowing it to surpass the current record-holder, the 630-megawatt London Array; another Dong installation. When the Walney Extension goes live – hopefully in 2018. – Dong will contribute more than 5GW of offshore wind energy to UK and German infrastructure, enough to cover the needs of more than 12.5 million people.