The Carbon Trust is today launching a global competition to find world-leading solutions to the problem of transferring engineers and equipment safely from boats to wind turbines as far as 300km offshore in 3 metre wave heights. The project aims to improve the economics of offshore wind by boosting revenues by as much as £3bn at a crucial time for the next generation of Round 3 offshore wind farms.
The need for better access solutions is driven by the location of the next generation of wind farms to be built over the decade. Today’s wind farms are typically less than 20km from shore in relatively benign sea conditions, but in future, wind farms will be as far as 300km offshore where they will operate in harsh conditions – excellent conditions for generating electricity, but challenging for operations and maintenance.
“As developers seek to get wind turbines into deeper waters, where the wind blows more wildly and the waves are stronger, it is vital that access and safety are maximised and costs minimised," said Charles Hendry, Minister of State for Energy. “This competition will help turn ideas into reality, and successful innovators will see their solutions power the next phase in the UK’s offshore wind expansion."
Turbines are typically available to generate electricity for 90% of the time. They require planned and unplanned maintenance during the year, and this is performed by personnel who step off boats onto ladders on the side of the turbines. Whilst this works effectively and safely in calm seas, conditions in future wind farms may be so rough that transfers may only be possible 160 days a year. If safer, more reliable transfers were possible, it would increase the window for performing maintenance activities, which would increase the operating hours of the turbines and improve the overall economics of the wind farm.
The competition aims to generate at least a 4% increase in turbine availability through the development of new technologies for the most challenging sea conditions. This in turn could increase the power generated, which would mean saving £3bn of lost revenue. This improvement in availability would also save an extra 1.3 Mt CO2 per year.
The global market opportunity for these access solutions
is estimated to be worth over £2bn by 2020 and according to Carbon Trust research, the UK market alone could account for up to fifty per cent of that.
Benj Sykes, Director of Innovations, the Carbon Trust commented
, “To ensure we achieve the scale of offshore wind needed to meet the UK’s renewable target and reduce dependency on fossil fuels, we must focus on improving the economics of offshore wind, by reducing costs and increasing revenues. This competition will find innovative technology solutions which will help us get as much power as possible from next generation offshore wind farms.”
The next generation of ‘Round 3’ offshore wind farms to be constructed from 2014 will consist of up to 1,500 turbines, located up to 300 km offshore. By enabling safe transfer to a turbine in 3 metre waves through the development of new systems, the increased potential for maintenance will improve availability.
The competition is part of the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator, a major industry collaboration with eight leading energy companies – DONG Energy, E.ON, Mainstream Renewable Power, RWE Innogy, ScottishPower Renewables, SSE Renewables, Statkraft and Statoil –, which aims to drive down the costs of energy from offshore wind by 10%.
This latest OWA global competition aims to identify and develop the necessary technologies for access of far-offshore wind turbines, focusing on:
- Transfer systems – To transfer personnel and equipment from vessel to turbine, potentially with motion-compensation
- Vessels – Vessels for transporting personnel and equipment from permanent bases or mother-vessels to turbines, incorporating a transfer system
- Launch and recovery systems – Systems fitted to the permanent bases or mother-vessels for launching and recovering daughter-vessels from the sea.
The successful applicants to the competition will benefit from funding of up to £100,000 per concept to support the design and development of the successful concepts; the opportunity to work with eight leading offshore wind developers with licences to develop 30GW of offshore wind capacity in UK waters (representing 60% of today’s licensed UK capacity) and potentially several million pounds of funding to take the concepts to full-scale demonstration.
The competition is supported by RenewableUK, IMarEST (Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology), RINA (Royal Institute of Naval Architects), SMI (Society of Maritime Industries), EWEA (European Wind Energy Association). Companies interested can submit their designs until 5pm, November 26, 2010, by visiting www.carbontrust.co.uk/access
or emailing OWA@carbontrust.co.uk