Norwegian energy giant, Statoil, is in discussions with the US state of Maine’s Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) about a potential power purchase agreement (PPA). If agreed, the PPA would provide financial underpinning for Statoil's plan to install a 12MW floating offshore wind demonstration project in federal waters off the coast of Maine.
A similar plan for Scottish waters remains on Statoil’s agenda, as it is too early to tell which project will prove the most viable, Trine Ulla, Statoil’s head of business development for floating wind, told Windpower Offshore.
The company awaits a Scottish government decision on financial support for floating wind projects. "We haven’t made up our mind which project will go ahead," said Ulla, adding that the company could build both.
Last week, the US Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) announced the beginning of public consultation about Statoil’s 2011 application for a commercial lease. It relates to a 57.5km² sea area in the US outer continental shelf. Should a demonstration be installed there, the "final park size" would be much smaller, said Statoil, probably 6-10km². The environmental permitting process for the Maine project has yet to begin.
Statoil is active in the ‘conventional’ fixed-bottom offshore wind market, owning a 50% stake in the UK Sheringham Shoal project. But its long-term wind energy strategy focuses on the development of cost-effective floating technology capable of competing against ‘conventional’ designs.
Since 2009, Statoil has been trialling its Hywind floating platform in Norwegian waters. The trial’s success has prompted it to pursue development of one or more multi-turbine trials off either Scotland or Maine. In 2011, the single turbine Hywind pilot project achieved a capacity factor of 50%.
Wherever Statoil eventually installs its second-generation Hywind platforms, they will be lighter. The current Hywind structure weighs about 1,250t, but those that would be built for Maine would be about 1,000t, explained Ulla. "We know now where the stresses are on the structure and where we can reduce the amount of steel used.
Design optimisation has also focused on reducing the structure’s draft. Currently 100m, the next-generation design would have a draft of just 75m. Lower draft means the technology could be installed in lower water depths.
High-profile industrial names in Japan are amongst those focusing attention on floating wind technology. They are aiming to cut costs, in part, through lower-weight designs. Other players in floating offshore wind technology include DCNS, Principle Power and Sway.
Should such technologies become cost effective, installed capacity could spiral. "Floating wind technology would allow developers to choose the best locations for electricity generation," explained Ulla.