Floating Concept Debuts for Offshore Wind Farms

The major limitation in offshore wind farms tapping the stronger, more consistent winds that lie farther out is the depth required to install the footing for the turbine foundations. The Norway-based company Hydro is developing a new concept that would use floating concrete construction technology developed for the North Sea oil industry and apply it to offshore wind turbines.

Dubbed “Hywind,” model testing is currently under way at Norwegian R&D institute Sintef Marintek’s ocean basin laboratory in Trondheim. “Hywind is a future-oriented project combining our offshore oil industry experiences with our knowledge of wind power to take advantage of wind resources where it blows most — at sea,” said Hydro’s director of new energy, Alexandra Bech Gjorv. “If we succeed, this can become an important part of our future energy supply.” Hydro is using the ocean basin in Trondheim to simulate wind and wave conditions at sea. A model of the floating windmill has been tested and the company says the results are promising. The company is now evaluating the placement of a wind turbine in the North Sea to demonstrate that it is possible to build offshore wind parks at sea depths of 200-300 meters. Hydro has measured wind speeds in the North Sea for more than 30 years. Based on data determining that average wind speeds at sea are higher than on land, Hywind will be exceptionally energy efficient. Gjorv emphasizes that Hywind will be a supplement, not a substitute to land-based wind parks. “Hywind is very well-suited for energy poor areas where there is little accessible land, but good offshore wind conditions, for example in the US, Japan and in the vicinity of offshore installations,” she said. A demonstration project is currently being planned based on wind turbines with a power generation capacity of 3 MW. The windmills will reach 80 meters above the sea’s surface and will have an average rotor diameter of about 90 meters. According to plans, the demonstration project will start operating in 2007. They eventually envision wind turbines with a power capacity of 5 MW and a rotor diameter of approximately 120 meters. “The future goal is to have large-scale offshore wind parks with up to 200 turbines capable of producing up to 4 terawatt hours (TWh) per year and delivering renewable electricity to both offshore and onshore activities,” Gjorv said. “This goal is far in the future, but if we’re to succeed in 10-15 years, we have to start the work today.” Four TWh is comparable to the power consumption of some 200,000 average Norwegian households. Hydro has invested some NOK 20 million (USD$3 million) into developing the Hywind concept over the past three years. Further realization of research and the demonstration project will require at least another NOK 150 million (USD$ 23 million).
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