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Leading wave energy test site to help develop GBP 25m floating wind project

UK technology institute to explore testing offshore floating wind platform at world’s largest wave energy test site

The ETI says floating turbines could open more areas of the sea to offshore wind
The ETI says floating turbines could open up more areas of the sea to offshore wind

The UK Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is considering using a world leading wave energy site to accommodate floating offshore wind turbines for a GBP 25m demonstration project. The project will see the design, construction and installation of a floating system demonstrator by 2016 at a site with high wind speeds up to about 10m/s in water between 60 and 100m deep.

Wave Hub is the world’s largest wave energy test site. It consists of a gird-connected ‘socket’ on the seabed approximately 10 nautical miles off the north coast of Cornwall in South West England. Designed to test arrays of wave energy devices in eight square km of sea, it has been commissioned by the ETI to complete a study to investigate whether the waters around Wave Hub would be suitable for testing floating wind turbines as part of the project.

Plans for the offshore wind floating system demonstration project, which would open up new areas off the coast of the UK and help bring generation costs down, were announced by the ETI in October 2011.

It will be operated for at least two years to show it can generate high levels of electricity, be maintained without using specially designed vessels and to verify the predicted technical and economic performance.

Wave Hub has four berths in total. Two of these have already been reserved by wave device developers Ocean Energy Limited of Ireland and Ocean Power Technologies, based in the US and UK.

Dr David Clarke, ETI chief executive, said: “The ETI is seeking potential sites to host the demonstration project and we will be working with Wave Hub to see if it could be suitable for hosting the offshore wind floating platform. This is a challenging project and will need local marine engineering skills and support facilities as well as the right water and wind conditions.

“The concept for the floating platforms is to be able to access near-to-shore, high wind speed sites off the west coast of the UK which would bring down the cost of generating electricity so the Wave Hub site offers some interesting possibilities.”

Claire Gibson, Wave Hub general manager, said: “We have commissioned a study to investigate whether the Wave Hub site is suitable for testing floating wind turbines in response to the approach made by ETI. This study will establish whether the site has the necessary characteristics and if a single wind turbine demonstrator project is deliverable at Wave Hub.

“We have a particular advantage in that the offshore grid infrastructure and onshore substation are already in place, and we also have a team that has experience of managing the design, consent and installation of offshore energy projects. We clearly need to consult with a wide range of groups and other sea users about this opportunity and this forms an important part of the study.”

The feasibility study is being funded by the ETI and expected to be complete before the summer.

Developments in floating turbine technology will be discussed at BigSwitch Offshore Wind, a global wind event, which Renewable Energy Technology (RET) is sponsoring. The event, which is taking place in Glasgow on 26th and 27th June, aims to advance technological developments across the global offshore wind industry. For more information on the event, please email RET Editor Heath Reidy at heath.reidy@bric.com.