The Carbon Trust has launched a global competition to find solutions to the problem of transferring engineers and equipment safely from boats to wind turbines as far as 300km offshore in 3m wave heights.
Today’s wind farms are typically less than 20km from shore in relatively benign sea conditions. However, ’Round 3’ offshore wind farms erected from 2014 will consist of up to 1,500 turbines, located up to 300km offshore where they will operate in much harsher conditions – excellent for generating electricity but challenging for operations and maintenance.
Charles Hendry, minister of state for energy, said: ’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. This competition will help turn ideas into reality, and successful applicants will see their solutions power the next phase in the UK’s offshore wind expansion.’
Turbines are typically available to generate electricity for 90 per cent 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. While 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 boost the operating hours of the turbines and improve the overall economics of the wind farm.
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 – that aims to drive down the costs of energy from offshore wind by 10 per cent.
The successful winners of the competition will benefit from funding of up to £100,000 to support the design and development of 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 per cent 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, the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA), the Society of Maritime Industries (SMI) and the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
Interested companies should submit their designs by 26 November by visiting www.carbontrust.co.uk/access or emailing OWA@carbontrust.co.uk.