United Kingdom

United Kingdom

UK must prioritise tech testing to shrink offshore costs

Carbon Trust wants rapid permitting for turbine & foundation tests

Far greater priority and support is needed for the testing of innovative offshore wind technologies if the UK government’s stated goal of slashing offshore wind’s cost of energy to £100/MWh (€120/MWh) is to be achieved, argues the Carbon Trust.

Accelerated planning and consenting is urgently needed for the UK’s two offshore wind test facilities, in Aberdeen and Northumberland, argues the Carbon Trust. Currently, offshore wind’s cost of energy in the UK is in the range of £140-190/MWh, viewed as unacceptably high by the government.

In addition to prioritising testing at designated test facilities, the UK government should follow in the footsteps of the Dutch government and incentivise testing at sites earmarked for commercial offshore wind projects, according to Phil de Villiers, manager of the Carbon Trust’s £45m offshore wind accelerator programme.

The Dutch government has awarded Eneco a grant to support testing of several innovative technologies at Eneco’s Q10 offshore wind farm. No such grants are available in the UK, as yet.

New & cheaper foundations

Thus far, there has been just one instance of a UK offshore wind developer using a site earmarked for commercial development to test a new, more cost effective technology. Last year, Mainstream Renewable Power erected a twisted jacket, designed by Keystone Engineering, at its Hornsea Round 3 site. The innovative foundation is being used to carry a met mast.

Given that the construction and installation of foundations can account for 40% of offshore wind’s cost of energy, it is essential that developers adopt lower-cost designs.

A second test of a new foundation design within the boundaries of a UK commercial offshore wind zone will begin this year, with Belfast firm Harland & Wolf due to fabricate a ‘bucket’ foundation to be installed at Dogger Bank. The so-called ‘universal foundation’ will also carry a met mast.

Demand for testing of larger turbines, new foundation designs and innovative vessels will far outstrip supply over the coming decade, argues the Carbon Trust. If insufficient testing takes place, developers will refuse to deploy innovative, lower cost technologies. Instead, they will stay with tried and tested options despite their high costs, warns de Villiers. Such a scenario would fail to reduce offshore wind’s cost of energy at anything like the rate demanded by the UK government.

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