19 September 2011
Ship on Rally car suspension could help solve £3bn challenge to access offshore wind turbines. Carbon Trust’s worldwide search finds best ways to reach wind turbines in stormy North Sea
Dakar rally race cars and a robotic arm could help deliver a 3 billion-pound ($4.7 billion) boost to Britain’s offshore wind industry.
They’re among 13 designs shortlisted today by the Carbon Trust in a competition two-thirds funded by wind developers such as EON AG and Dong Energy A/S to help engineers access windmills in rough seas up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) from shore. The designers will get as much as 100,000 pounds each.
The Carbon Trust is a U.K. government-funded company that advises corporations on cutting emissions, saving energy and advancing low-carbon technologies.
The project aims to increase the availability of offshore wind farms for power generation by 4 percent by making turbines easier to access and minimizing the time they are shut down, the trust said today in an e-mailed statement. The U.K. has put the technology, among the most expensive of renewable power sources, at the heart of its plan to meet a European Union goal of getting 15 percent of energy from clean power by 2020.
“Future wind farms will be much larger, in deeper water, and with worse weather conditions,” Jan Matthiesen, manager of the offshore wind accelerator program at the trust, said in a phone interview. “This is a key component in bringing costs down. Every minute the turbines are not turning is lost revenue.”
The global market for craft to access offshore turbines could be worth more than 2 billion pounds by 2020, Matthiesen said. The U.K. could account for as much as half that, according to the Carbon Trust. Britain awarded its third round of offshore wind farm licenses last year, paving the way for as many as 33 gigawatts of new turbines to be erected starting in about 2015.
The project could save 3 billion pounds in lost generating revenue from those farms over their lifetime, according to the trust. While Britain is currently the biggest offshore wind market, Matthiesen said the solutions could also be employed in in the U.S. and China.
“These projects represent some of the best ideas to overcome the challenges of working in deeper water to create a cleaner, more cost effective power supply for the future and a greener economy in the UK,” Greg Barker, climate change minister, said in a statement.
Alongside Dong and EON, Scottish and Southern Energy Plc, Iberdrola SA (IBE)’s ScottishPower Renewables unit, as well as Statoil ASA (STL), Statkraft AS, RWE Innogy GmbH and Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd., are backing the competition. All are developers of offshore wind in the U.K. and except for Dong, all are involved in Round 3.
The shortlist includes a giant robotic arm that transfers engineers and equipment to the turbine base, a seahorse-like vessel with a keel to remain stable on the ocean swell and a boat that draws inspiration from suspension in Dakar-winning rally cars.
South Boats Special Projects Ltd. and KNUD E. HANSEN were among those shortlisted for systems able to contend with wave motion while transferring people to the turbines. Fjellstrand AS and the University of Strathclyde were listed for vessel designs to run personnel and kit to the turbines. Divex and Offshore Kinetics were chosen for their designs that launch and recover “daughter” craft from the sea, among others.
The Carbon Trust will review the designs again within a year to refine the list further, Matthiesen said.