The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is investing up to £25m in an offshore wind floating system demonstration project.
In a statement, ETI said exploiting this natural resource economically, particularly in deeper waters off the west of the country, will require significant technology developments to build, operate and support large offshore wind arrays.
Dr David Clarke, ETI chief executive, said: ‘Offshore wind must be affordable and cost competitive with alternatives and although large, floating turbines will have high capital costs, they can access near-to-shore, high-wind-speed sites off the west coast of the UK, which overall brings down the cost of electricity generation for the long term.
‘Our studies have shown that access to high-wind areas that are close to shore should be an attractive investment compared to some existing UK sites that are further from the coast in areas of lower wind. We also expect there is likely to be a considerable global market for floating wind turbines that can be developed in the UK.
‘We see floating turbine technology being strategically important to both the UK’s energy supply and its industrial strategy, which is why we are now seeking partners to carry out the development, installation and commissioning of a full-scale floating wind turbine system demonstrator by 2016.’
The project will see the design, construction and installation of a floating system demonstrator by 2016 at a relatively near-shore site with high wind speeds up to about 10m per second in water between 60 and 100m deep.
It will be operated for at least two years to show it can generate high levels of electricity, be maintained without using specially designed vessels and to verify the predicted technical and economic performance.
The intention is that it would be operated for another eight years to allow further developments to take place.
The ETI will also commission a test site for the demonstrator with possible sites being provided to project participants during the design phase.