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UK Tests Next-Generation Offshore Wind Turbines

UK energy Minister Greg Barker officially opened a new extension to the 172 MW Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm this week. The new site is located next to the existing wind farm, 8.5 km off the coast of Clacton-on-Sea in Essex.

The existing wind farm consists of two phases, Gunfleet Sands I with 30 turbines and Gunfleet Sands II with 18 turbines. The new site, Gunfleet Sands III, will see the first demonstration in UK waters of the next generation of offshore wind turbines, the energy ministry said. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the two new 6 MW turbines, made by Siemens and installed by Dong Energy, have been designed to be used at sea and could significantly cut the cost of producing renewable energy from offshore wind.

“Many turbines currently installed off the UK coastline are variations on turbines designed for use onshore,” DECC said in a statement. “The new generation used at Gunfleet will be more cost-effective and efficient – improving the UK’s energy security and increasing the amount of energy generated from renewables.”

As the first two of their kind to be deployed offshore, the turbines are scheduled to undergo a series of tests over the next three years, Dong Energy said. The company plans for the tests to examine how the new direct drive technology and installation methods used at this project could affect the wider rollout of the 6 MW turbine for Dong’s future projects in the UK.

Henrik Stiesdal, chief technology officer at Siemens Wind Power, said: “Gunfleet Sands III is a very important project for us to bring the 6 MW direct drive turbine out to the offshore environment. The two prototypes have been pre-tested under hardest conditions and we have made tremendous progress with the experiences gained by that. Now we will test the turbines under long-term conditions of normal energy production.”

The 6 MW turbine type has been tested onshore at the Høvsøre and Osterild test centres in Denmark. Dong announced in July 2012 that it had signed a framework agreement with Siemens to deliver 300 of the turbines for exclusive use in Dong’s UK projects. Dong also signed an agreement with Siemens for up to 154 of the turbines at its German Gode Wind projects beginning in 2015.

Benj Sykes, Dong Energy Wind Power’s UK country manager, said: “The inauguration of this demonstration project marks an important milestone for Dong Energy in the UK. We are using the latest technology to push the boundaries of the industry forward and we continue to remain committed to playing a central role in ensuring the offshore wind industry in this country achieves its full potential.”

Barker added: “The Coalition [government] is driving huge new investment to deliver both affordable bills and cleaner energy for consumers. This includes an important role for offshore wind. Dong Energy’s Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm is an excellent and innovative example. It’s helping the country take another step towards a clean, secure energy future while helping to support local jobs.”

The UK’s Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy, published last month, includes £20 million (€24 million) from the Regional Growth Fund to improve the competitiveness of the wind industry supply chain, and £46 million (€55 million) over five years for the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, established to link innovation between industry, government and academia and help companies to bring new products to market. The £15 million (€18 million) Offshore Wind Component Technologies Scheme aims to help companies test and demonstrate devices and to develop component technologies that can cut the costs of offshore wind energy in the runup to 2020 and in the subsequent decade, DECC said.

Lead image: the Gunfleet Sands III wind demonstration project, courtesy Dong Energy

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Tildy Bayar is a journalist focusing on the energy sector. She is a former Associate Editor on RenewableEnergyWorld.com and Renewable Energy World magazine.

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