There is strong demand for test plots at an 11-turbine offshore test site planned for Aberdeen Bay, with the site's developers announcing memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with six turbine manufacturers today.
"The project is strategically important, and not just for UK Round 3 projects, but for the European offshore wind industry as a whole. We need the most reliable, productive, cost-effective and safest turbines possible," a Vattenfall spokesperson told Windpower Offshore.
Vattenfall is one of three organisations that have joined forces to establish the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC). Its partners are Technip and the Scottish government-funded Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group.
Stimulating the development of lower-cost offshore turbines is a priority for the Swedish energy company, whose development pipeline includes the 7.2GW UK Round 3 East Anglia zone, which it will build with ScottishPower Renewables.
"We want to see increased competition in the offshore turbine supply market. It is important that we have as wide a range of turbines as possible to choose from for the East Anglia zone and other projects," said the Vattenfall spokesperson.
Speculation & opposition
The names of the "international" manufacturers that have signed MoUs with the EOWDC consortium have not been released. Press reports suggest that Vestas, Siemens, REpower, Gamesa, Samsung and Mitsubishi are the six firms in question. Mitsubishi has an existing tie-up with EOWDC consortium member, Technip, to develop its 7MW SeaAngel turbine.
The MoUs should strengthen the EOWC consortium’s pending consent application, despite strong local opposition led by US property developer, Donald Trump. Trump argues that the turbines will spoil seaviews from his nearby golf and residential development.
EOWDC applied for consent in August 2011, and submitted an addendum this month revising the layout of the site, with taller turbines earmarked for plots further from shore. It also specifies maximum turbine heights and blade radius.
A decision by the Scottish minister for energy and enterprise, Fergus Ewing, is expected this year, following another round of public consultation. If the project is approved, its opponents would have to mount legal action to stop it.
A shortage of offshore turbine test sites is an increasingly pressing issue for the European offshore wind industry, since developers will not purchase untested technology. As yet, the UK has no dedicated offshore test sites, although a site off north-east England is being developed.
The Crown Estate has said it intends to support offshore test sites, which could include making a new test site available. Meanwhile, a Scottish development agency is working toward the establishment of one or more onshore sites for the testing of offshore machines.