Floating wind power soon a reality

The world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine is now operational. Located off Norway’s southwest coast, the wind turbine was launched earlier this autumn, marking a milestone in the development of large, offshore floating wind farms.

Hywind being towed to its anchoring site off the island of Karmøy in southwestern Norway. (Photo: Øyvind Hagen, StatoilHydro)

StatoilHydro is the energy company behind this first full-scale offshore wind turbine – known as Hywind. The turbine design, which draws upon the company’s expertise in developing floating constructions for the petroleum industry, now enters a two-year testing phase.

A new energy industry for Norway

“This is an important step towards creating a new Norwegian energy industry at sea,” declared Terje Riis-Johansen, Minister of Petroleum and Energy. “The project illustrates how we may benefit from the knowledge we have gained from our petroleum industry to develop innovative technology concerning renewable resources. Norway can play an important role in the utilization of renewable resources and more environment-friendly energy production in the years to come.”

The floating structure, consisting of a steel jacket filled with ballast, extends 100 meters beneath the surface, fixed to the seabed by three anchor piles. The pilot structure’s price tag exceeded NOK 400 million. Enova, a state-owned company which promotes environment-friendly changes to energy production and use in Norway, has funded nearly 15 percent of the project.

International collaboration

The Hywind project is the very essence of successful international collaboration: Siemens Wind Power of Denmark produced the wind turbine and its tower, France’s Technip built the floating structure and installed the windmill, and Nexans Norway produced and laid Hywind’s power cable to land.

Research Council encouraging wind power

For several years, the Research Council’s Large-scale Program on Clean Energy for the Future (RENERGI) has been providing funding for research projects on floating wind power. Among those granted funding are the SINTEF Group in Trondheim and the company Sway, which expect their first pilot to go operational in 2010. This year, offshore wind power research received a major boost with the establishment of the Centers for Environment-friendly Energy Research (FMEs) scheme. Two of the eight centers are conducting research on offshore wind power.

NOWITECH (Norwegian Research Center for Offshore Wind Technology), headquartered in Trondheim, conducts research and development to form a basis for industrial value creation and cost-effective offshore wind farms. Emphasis is placed on solutions for waters deeper than 30 meters, including both bottom-fixed and floating wind turbines.

NOWITECH combines knowledge about wind power with experience in offshore activities to promote the development of wind farms at sea. The center utilizes in-house laboratories at, for instance, the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute (MARINTEK) in Trondheim as well as full-scale field trials such as Hywind.

NOWITECH is currently educating many doctoral candidates and researchers who will collaborate with industry players on developing the technology.

NORCOWE (Norwegian Center for Offshore Wind Energy), based in Bergen, is a competence and resource centre for developing wind power generation at sea. It will draw upon available knowledge from the Norwegian offshore technology industry as well as Danish expertise in wind energy.

At NORCOWE, key industry players and research groups from Norway pool their efforts to develop the knowledge base for commercial players to build upon. The center’s research will help to drive down the costs of offshore wind power while developing human resources with cutting-edge expertise directly relevant for industry.

Each of the FMEs has secured funding for five years, with an opportunity for a three-year extension.

Wind turbine research outside the FMEs

As a follow-up of the broad-based political agreement on climate policy achieved in the Storting last year, the RENERGI program was allocated a budget increase that allows for additional funding to offshore wind turbine research conducted beyond the auspices of the FMEs as well. This year’s high volume of grant proposals to the RENERGI programindicates a growing interest in this area among research groups.

Read this article and more at The Research Council of Norway.

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