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US-EU world first floating wind system tests a success

Floating semisubmersible wind turbine meets performance goals in Portugal

WindFloat is the world’s first floating semisubmersible wind turbine

A US floating wind system which has been tested in Portugal since the start of the year has been a success. Seattle firm Principle Power’s WindFloat device, which includes a turbine of Danish firm Vestas, has met its performance calls since it was first put into the water six months ago. The device is the world’s first floating semisubmersible wind turbine.
   
The wind power generator, which cost EUR 20m million floats over deep ocean waters, unlike previous offshore wind farms built in shallow waters and attached to the ocean floor.

Portugal power group EDP and Principle Power, partners in the project, said the pilot produced 1.7 GWh on average since its blades started turning six months ago, enough to supply power to 1,300 families.

Alla Weinstein, Principle Power chief executive, told Reuters: "This was a great success, our calculations have proved right, and the unit performed as predicted. But this was a conservative design. Next time we will be more optimistic.”

The pilot sits six kilometres off the coast of the windy town of Povoa do Varzim, close to Porto in northern Portugal.

It is 54m tall and weighs 1,200 tonnes, with a turbine from Denmark's Vestas and backup from Repsol and other local partners.

Its capacity at 2 MW is just below the average of offshore wind turbines in Europe, which was 3.6 MW at end-2011, according to the European Wind Energy association.

Investors in the system are seeking European Union funding to build five more off the coast of Portugal following the success of initial testing of the device, according to Reuters.

The first wind turbine is connected to the grid through cables that run on the ocean floor and are linked to an onshore sub-station. If the distances are much greater than 6 kilometres, the plan is to build mid-ocean substations.

"We have applied for a European Commission funding scheme that creates a tariff-like funding mechanism when you produce energy. It is provided through the monetisation of carbon credits," Weinstein said.

"After the prototypes are fully tested, we start with the commercial phase in two years' time, with the objective of starting to have some return on the investment," said Pedro Valverde, the project manager at EDP.