Norwegian oil and gas company, Statoil, has developed new wind turbine technology which enables wind power to be harvested in waters too deep for the current conventional bottom-standing turbines will be trialled at the Peterhead wind farm, known as Hywind. The wind farm is expected to power 20,000 households with its turbines that can operate in water up to a kilometre deep.
According to the manufacturer, the output is expected to equal and even surpass generation from current turbines.
The technology involved boasts some impressive sizes. The turbine towers, including the blades, stretch to 175m. Each tower weighs 11,500 tonnes and the box behind the blades - the nacelle – could hold two double-decker buses. The 75m blades have been a particular focus for innovation. Statoil says the blades harness breakthrough software - which holds the tower upright by twisting the blades to dampen motions from wind, waves and currents.
The Hywind project is being run in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi firm Masdar. The project cost of £190m has been subsidised by the UK’s bill-payers under the UK government's Renewable Obligation Certificates.
Game-changing wind power technology
The company says it hopes to “cash in” on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the American west coast where waters are deep.
"This is a tech development project to ensure it's working in open sea conditions. It's a game-changer for floating wind power and we are sure it will help bring costs down," said Leif Delp, project director for Hywind.
One giant turbine has already been moved into place, while four more wait in a Norwegian fjord.
By the end of the month, the five turbines will be towed to 25km off Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. Here, the turbines will float upright and begin generating wind power.
While the turbines are currently very expensive to make, Statoil is convinced that it will dramatically reduce costs in the same way that manufacturers already have for conventional offshore turbines.
"I think eventually we will see floating wind farms compete without subsidy - but to do that we need to get building at scale," said Delp in a statement.
The price of energy from conventional offshore wind farms has dropped 32% over the last four years. The industry is expecting another big price drop which could see offshore wind becoming price competitive with new nuclear power.
Huge potential for Scotland’s energy plans
Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse stated publicly in March of this year that if the technology can be demonstrated at scale, it has huge potential to help Scotland meet its energy needs and to develop a supply chain that can service opportunities elsewhere in Europe, as well as South East Asian and North American markets.
“Our commitment to supporting low-carbon energy is outlined in our new draft Energy Strategy which sets out next steps and how we will continue to transition to a low-carbon economy, with the offshore wind sector to take an increasingly influential role.
“With 25% of Europe’s offshore wind potential, and through development with due regard to our natural environment, Scotland is uniquely and strongly positioned to maximise the economic and environmental benefits that the technology can deliver, which will help us progress towards our carbon emission reduction targets.”