EMEC announces €31m floating wind trial off Irish coast

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) is to lead a €31m project to test a full-scale floating wind turbine off the west coast of Ireland.

The floating turbine technology for the project will be supplied by Italian firm Saipem.

The so-called AFLOWT project (Accelerating market uptake of Floating Offshore Wind Technology) will see a floating wind turbine installed at the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS), a facility off the west coast of Ireland that is operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

The floating turbine, developed by Italian energy firm Saipem, is expected to begin operating by 2022 once planning, permitting and supply chain requirements are in place. Chief operating officer of Saipem’s E&C Offshore division Stefano Porcari said: “This project represents for us a unique opportunity to prove our Floating Wind technology in severe environment. Together with our consortium partners, we will work on the feasibility and the cost-effectiveness of this floating offshore wind project for a low carbon emission energy environment.”

The four-year project is being funded through the European Commission’s Interreg North West Europe programme which has been set up to boost innovation in North-West Europe.

By testing at AMETS, the technology developed in AFLOWT will be proven in the harshest of North West Europe’s offshore environments, readying it for application at any deep-water offshore environment across the world.

Commenting on the decision to site the project off Ireland’s west coast, Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton said:

“Almost one-third of Ireland’s electricity currently comes from renewables, with wind being the highest contributor. However, we need to step up our ambition in this area and stretch ourselves farther. I welcome this project as an excellent opportunity to further explore the potential of offshore wind.”

Project leader EMEC, which is based in Orkney, has hitherto focussed mainly on offshore tidal and wave power. Commenting on the move into floating wind its commercial director Oliver Wragg said: ”Over the past 15 years EMEC has hosted more ocean energy technologies at its real sea test berths in the UK than any other facility in the world. We have developed a wealth of knowledge and expertise that can now be transferred to the testing and demonstration of floating offshore wind to help it make the most cost-effective and rapid transition to commercialisation.”

Other partners in the project include Dutch firm MARIN, which will be involved in the design of the mooring system and the monitoring of the prototype and Fraunhofer IWES, which will investigate the long-term impact of the deployment of floating offshore wind for the North-West Europe renewable energy targets. Fraunhofer IWES will lead on the development of an advanced turbine control system.

As previously reported by The Engineer, floating wind turbine technology is a major area of development for the offshore renewables sector as it enables turbines to operate further out to sea where the wind resource is more plentiful.

Last year (October 2018) the world’s first floating wind farm, the 30MW Hywind Scotland project off the coast of Aberdeen started to deliver electricity to the Scottish grid.