Carbon Trust launches £2m offshore wind project to increase energy yields

The Carbon Trust today unveiled its latest wind energy research project which aims to help the industry to improve prediction accuracy, reduce financing costs and optimise wind farm layouts.

The project will help cut the cost of offshore wind power by increasing the energy yields from Round 3 wind farms, located up to 290Km from the UK coast.

The new £2m ‘wake effects’ measurement project, which looks at the loss of wind power as it passes through the wind farm, will provide detailed measurement data to the wind industry to help better understand how the wind behaves in complex situations offshore.

Part of the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA), an industry collaboration with nine UK wind farm developers to identify and commercialise a series of innovations which aim to reduce the costs of offshore wind.

The nine members of the OWA, e.on, Dong Energy, RWE, Mainstream Renewable Power, Scottish Power Renewables, SSE Renewables, Statkraft, Statoil, Vattenfall and the Carbon Trust, will open up data and allow developers to share wind farm information effectively.

Specialist wakes monitoring equipment has been installed on the Rødsand 2 windfarm in Denmark and will measure wakes passing through the wind farm for at least 6 months.

Data gathered from this project will help improve specialist software, enabling developers to better predict how the wind will flow offshore to enable them to develop better and more efficient designs and layouts to increase the energy yields from offshore wind farms and “in turn improve the economics of the offshore wind projects”.

Commenting on the new research project Head of Offshore Wind at the Carbon Trust, Phil de Villiers, said: “Bringing down the cost of offshore wind is an absolute priority for the industry. We believe that industry collaboration on key innovation projects that offer scope for dramatic cost reduction is the best way to go.

“The new wakes effects measurement campaign will address the shortage of data that has constrained the development of wake effects models for offshore wind. It offers potential to increase energy yields from offshore wind farms and also offer financiers greater certainty on the economics of the projects.”

The project is also critical to help open up debt financing for the construction of Round 3 projects in the UK.

The UK Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), published in January 2009, identified up to 33GW of offshore wind capacity in UK waters, which formed the basis of the Round 3 offshore wind programme and will contribute significantly to meeting the UK’s renewable energy target.

At present no UK offshore wind farm has been built with debt finance – in part because of the uncertainties around predicting the energy outputs from wind farms offshore.

According to the Carbon Trust, the project may also result in the layout of offshore wind farms looking very different in the future to how they look today.

Villiers also highlighted the importance of innovation in reducing the cost of wind farms, saying that innovative technology could deliver a 25% cost reduction by 2020.

Speaking to edie, Villiers said: “To commercialise new ideas, we need demonstration. If we don’t act quickly, the opportunity to use lower cost technologies at the start of Round 3 will be lost”.

He also stressed that there was a significant need for more offshore demonstrations to support market entry of new turbine and foundations designs, while the industry needs to share data and experiences effectively to accelerate cost reduction.

In other news, two OWA members, Dong Energy and Scottish Power Renewables announed today that offshore construction at the West of Duddon Sands offshore windfarm, a joint venture between the two companies, is officially underway following the installation of the project’s offshore substation on site in the east Irish Sea.

The entire project will consist of 108 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of 389MW, and is due to be fully completed in 2014.

Leigh Stringer

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