CREDIT: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
Usually when energy development moves into deeper waters to harness marine energy resources, coastal residents have nightmares of risky technology and oil spills.
But not when that development means floating wind turbines.
Statoil, the Norwegian-based oil and gas company, received approval from the United Kingdom’s Crown Estate to build five floating wind turbines in 100 meters of water off the coast of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Combined, they will generate 30 megawatts of energy, and the planned hub will be the largest in Europe.
The Crown Estate is the United Kingdom’s royal property owner and owns nearly the entire U.K. seabed out to the 12-mile nautical limit. The Hywind Scotland Pilot Park project will operate 8-12 miles off the eastern coastline of Aberdeenshire, near Peterhead. The Crown Estate worked with Statoil for two years on the proposal before this week’s lease agreement. Statoil’s senior vice-president for renewable energy, Siri Espedal Kindem, said the company saw the approval as a significant milestone, and it looked forward to “a progressed dialogue with key stakeholders in Scotland, including communities, the local supply chain and the authorities.” Statoil could commit final investment approval following marine surveys and concept studies.
Offshore wind is big in Europe, but turbines are limited to shallow waters (around 60 meters) because the pylons that support them have to be blasted into the seabed. Floating turbines, however, just require a few cables to keep the floating shaft in one spot, and they can be installed in water as deep at 700 meters.
“Scotland has a huge offshore wind resource but to maximise this opportunity we need to move into deeper water,” said Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney. “The lease agreement awarded to Statoil’s Hywind project offers the first step towards harnessing this resource.”
Last month, the U.K. generated 5 percent of the energy it needed from conventional offshore wind — 3.6 gigawatts. The Crown Estate also announced that it had commissioned a study into the best way to transmit power from offshore wind farms, to reduce costs.
Statoil successfully demonstrated the world’s first floating turbine off the coast of Norway in 2009. In October, Statoil pulled the plug on a $120 million project off the coast of Maine due to regulatory uncertainty. Republican Governor Paul LePage had long opposed the project, which would have made his state a center of global offshore wind innovation, and pushed a law through the legislature that forced a delay in the negotiations over Statoil’s contract. It also reopened RFP process it closed in 2011. LePage has opposed the project for some time.
Statoil said in an October statement: “Statoil will now focus on the Hywind concept in Scotland, a project we have matured in parallel with Hywind Maine during the last three years.” Maine’s loss is Scotland’s gain, as the floating offshore wind industry slowly gets off the ground.
A two-megawatt floating offshore wind turbine come online 12 miles off the coast of Fukushima, Japan earlier this month, along with the world’s first floating electrical substation. Two seven-megawatt turbines are planned.