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Potential for deep-water floating offshore wind turbines

Offshore wind turbines could be sited in deeper water off the UK coast using floating foundations, according to the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

The study into the feasibility and cost of electricity from offshore wind turbines on floating, tension legged platforms in water depths of 70-300 m, was conducted by Project Deepwater, a consortium led by Blue H with BAE Systems, the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS), EDF, Romax Technology Ltd, SLP Energy and PAFA Consulting Engineers.

ETI CEO Dr David Clarke, says: “The traditional view is that the cost of offshore wind becomes increasingly more expensive as turbines are located in deeper water due to the additional costs of supporting traditional turbine structures.

“The cost of foundations does get more expensive as you go into deeper water but the wind speeds in much of the UK deep water are significantly stronger and more consistent which results in a more reliable and higher energy output. Over time, this more than outweighs the additional foundation costs and gives an overall lower cost of energy.”

He adds: “This project has shown that it may be possible to use floating turbines to exploit deeper water sites off the coast of the UK where the wind speeds are both higher and more consistent, to produce electricity at a similar cost to existing and proposed offshore sites where the turbines are in shallower water up to 40 m deep.

“The assumption has always been that the cost of installing turbines in deeper water would be too high to make economic sense but this project shows that it may be possible to open up new sites in deeper water, for example off the West coast of the UK. The project has also identified that there is huge global potential for floating wind turbines in deep water.”

Project Deepwater is one of the ETI’s first offshore wind projects along with Nova and Helm Wind, which are due to produce their final conclusions later in the year.

The Nova project is looking at the potential benefits of using a vertical axis wind turbine and Helm Wind is assessing the complete design system for an offshore wind turbine array, including installation, design, aerodynamics, electrical systems, control and maintenance.

The findings from all three projects will be analysed by the ETI before a decision is made on the next steps in the offshore wind programme, which could see an offshore wind demonstrator built using technologies and insights from all three projects.

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