Floating wind turbines may soon be seen in UK waters after new investment in emerging offshore wind technologies was announced.
The Crown Estate, the managers of the UK’s seabed, have announced a new offshore wind leasing round for a range of offshore wind test and demonstration projects, including a leasing round for floating offshore wind technology, at RenewableUK’s Offshore Wind conference in Manchester today.
Wind speeds are consistently higher in deeper waters but it is not always possible to fix turbines to the seabed, as is traditionally done in offshore wind development, so the development of floating turbines will open up the potential for further development of the UK’s offshore wind resource beyond the 48GW already leased.
Martin Simpson, head of New Energy and Technology at the Crown Estate, said: "To unlock sustained growth in offshore wind we have to demonstrate that technological advancements can drive down costs.
“This new leasing programme is opening the doors for testing and demonstration of new technology across the spectrum, from turbines to foundations and cables, thus cementing the UK as the best place for investments in supply chain and commercial projects. Floating wind is included for the first time because of its future potential."
As well as opening up potential new sites it is hoped that floating turbines could eventually contribute to meeting the offshore wind industry’s ambitious cost reduction targets, partly because repairs to floating wind platforms can be done in port rather than out at sea.
The news comes whilst the Energy Technologies Institute is in the midst of a study developing an offshore wind floating platform system demonstrator.
The Crown Estate is inviting firms to propose sites for the development of floating wind farms and hopes that some projects could commence construction as soon as 2017.
Successful projects will include arrays of up to fifteen machines, utilising floating foundations and producing less than 100 MW and the technologies must be used solely for test and demonstration purposes and must not have been previously deployed commercially.
Nick Medic, RenewableUK director of Offshore Renewables said: “The opportunities for deployment of floating turbines are significant, and their development can transform our UK offshore wind resource.
“A small investment in developing this innovative technology can pay off magnificently in ensuring that expertise and jobs are developed in the UK and our offshore wind resource is maximised. It will also help to bring costs down over the longer term”.
Energy Minister Michael Fallon has also announced the formation of an Offshore Wind Investment Organisation aimed at increasing the levels of inward investment to the offshore wind sector in the UK, at today’s event.
Fallon said: “Offshore wind is a major success story for the UK, and we want to boost levels of inward investment. This will be an important part of our industrial strategy for the sector later this year, and we are creating the Offshore Wind Investment Organisation to drive that activity.”
RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: “This news is a welcome boost for British industry and restates the Government’s acknowledgement that offshore wind represents massive economic potential for the UK.
“The fact that this new organisation will coordinate Government’s work with business via a leading industry figure is important as it further cements the positive relationship between Government and industry, as we work together to build the investment climate we need going forward.”
The announcement comes as RenewableUK and The Crown Estate publish a report highlighting a “once in a generation” chance to attract major companies to the UK to build factories to supply the fast-growing offshore wind energy sector.
But the study, “Building an Industry”, warns that unless the UK seizes the opportunity, the manufacturing advantage will be lost to European competitors.#
McCaffery added: “ I am pleased that this announcement is being made on the very same day as we launch our Building an Industry Report, which outlines both the scale of the opportunity offshore wind affords us, and the risk of missing out on creating manufacturing hubs in the UK if we don’t get the policy right.”
The report predicts that between now and 2030 the UK offshore wind sector needs to build as many as 7 turbine tower factories, 7 blade factories, 7 nacelle factories, 6 factories to build foundations, 6 factories to build offshore substations and 6 cable factories.
It will also require more than 20 huge seagoing vessels to install offshore turbines, and a further 230 vessels to carry workers to and from the turbines once they are operational.