Scotland is once again leading the way with renewable energy technology as this week the initial phase of the world’s first full scale floating wind farm commenced. The project, named Hywind, off the coast of Peterhead in Scotland’s north east when fully developed will host five giant turbines which will provide electricity for up to 20,000 homes.
Manufacturer Statoil says output from the turbines is expected to equal or surpass generation from current ones, “This is a tech development project to ensure it’s working in open sea conditions. It’s a game-changer for floating wind power and we are sure it will help bring costs down,” said Leif Delp, project director for Hywind.
Due to the nature of the turbines they can be located in waters far deeper than conventional offshore turbines, in this case 15 miles from the mainland. This could allow the wind farm to take advantage of stronger wind currents, allowing it to generate more electricity and funnel this power back to the mainland. The project could also herald a new era for the wind energy space, where turbine technology is advancing at an accelerated rate.
One turbine has so far been installed with the four to follow currently being stored in Norway. It is expected that all five will be in place by the end of August. The operation to raise the turbines includes a number of tug boats, incredibly strong and thick cables and remote-controlled submarines, used to check for obstacles.
While the turbines are currently very expensive to make, Statoil believes that in the future it will be able to dramatically reduce costs in the same way that manufacturers already have for conventional offshore turbines.
“I think eventually we will see floating wind farms compete without subsidy – but to do that we need to get building at scale,” said Mr Delp. The company have already confirmed that should this project be a success they plan cash in on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the west coast of the US, where waters are deep.
The Hywind project is being run in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi firm Masdar. The £190m cost was subsidised by bill-payers under the UK government’s Renewable Obligation Certificates. However with the cost of conventional offshore wind projects falling by 32% since 2012 it is hoped that this new technology will soon follow suit.
Scotland has been for some time a well established leader in the wind energy industry and continues to invest heavily in it. Over the next few years some of the largest offshore wind farms are expected to be built of our coast. With the advent of this new floating wind farm we are again placing ourselves at the forefront of cutting edge renewable energy technology.
While we always maintain that a diverse mix of renewables technology is required to safeguard our energy future we also know that generating energy from wind is one of the most proven, reliable and cost effective methods for doing so. New techniques to harvest this energy, like the Hywind floating wind farm, creates a new way of tapping an established source in areas thought impossible only a few years ago.
As more efficient and consequently less expensive methods come onto the market we will eventually be able to reduce our carbon based fuel reliance to next to nothing. In turn this will reduce our emissions and go a long way in protecting our environment which ultimately is our goal.