World’s first floating offshore windfarm about to be constructed off NE Scotland

The Guardian reports, 27th June 2017: The world’s first floating windfarm has taken to the seas in a sign that a technology once confined to research and development drawing boards is finally ready to unlock expanses of ocean for generating renewable power.

After two turbines were floated this week, five now bob gently in the deep waters of a fjord on the western coast of Norway ready to be tugged across the North Sea to their final destination off north-east Scotland.

The £200m Hywind project is unusual not just because of the pioneering technology involved, which uses a 78-metre-tall underwater ballast and three mooring lines that will be attached to the seabed to keep the turbines upright. It is also notable because the developer is not a renewable energy firm but Norway’s Statoil, which is looking to diversify away from carbon-based fuels.

Irene Rummelhoff, head of the oil firm’s low-carbon division, said the technology opened up an enormous new resource of wind power. “It’s almost unlimited. Currently we are saying [floating windfarms will work in] water depths of between 100 and 700 metres, but I think we can go deeper than that. It opens up ocean that was unavailable,” she said.

Offshore windfarms are springing up across the North Sea for a reason — its waters are uniquely shallow enough to allow turbines to be mounted atop steel poles fixed to the seabed.

However, such fixed-bottom turbines can only be installed at water depths down to 40 metres, making them little use for the steeply shelved coastlines of the US west coast or Japan.

As well as opening up new frontiers such as the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, floating windfarms could be placed farther out to sea to avoid the sort of aesthetic objections that scuppered a £3.5b windfarm off the Dorset coast.

While Hywind is a minnow among modern offshore wind projects — it will power just 20,000 homes compared with the 800,000 by one being built off the Yorkshire coast — proponents say floating turbines could eclipse fixed-bottom ones in the long run.

Rummelhoff said floating windfarms will come of age in the areas where conventional ones have been established, as countries such as the UK run out of suitable sites in shallower waters. But it is also talking with state governments in Hawaii and California about projects, and eyeing Japan and the new, pro-renewables government in Seoul.

Like many new technologies, the biggest challenge will be cost. Behind the turbines at the deep water port of Stord in Norway sits a huge lifting vessel usually used in the oil and gas industry. It is the second biggest of its kind, very expensive to hire — and, for now, essential in the process of lifting the turbines off the quayside and floating them.

Experts have said a conventional offshore windfarm with the capacity of Hywind would be less than half the cost. A generous subsidy deal from the Scottish government made the project viable.

 

Source: The Guardian, 27th June 2017. For the full details, see
www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/27/hywind-project-scotland-worlds-first-floating-windfarm-norway

 


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