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TLPWIND UK takes floating turbines to new heights

Published 27 June 2016

A new design of floating turbine has been demonstrated successfully and is one step closer to a full commercial test.

The TLPWIND project, led by Iberdrola Engineering & Construction (IEC) and bringing together the expertise of the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and the University of Strathclyde, saw the development of a Tension Leg Platform (TLP) turbine foundation to deliver a lightweight and stable solution for floating wind.

At a showcase held on Thursday (23 June), a scale model of the technology was shown in action to prove the concept, which could lead to an attractive new technology for future offshore wind developments.

Juan Amate Lopez from IEC said:

“This collaboration has helped take the TLPWIND® design forward from being an exciting concept to an even more exciting, working prototype. From design all the way through to testing, we have watched with great enthusiasm as our idea has been brought to reality.”

The University of Strathclyde conducted scale model tests to prove the dynamic nature and seakeeping abilities of the TLPWIND® platform, utilising state-of-the-art facilities to simulate the conditions likely to be experienced off the north east coast of Scotland. Replicating conditions of up to 16m waves and 49m/s wind gusts on a 1:36 scale model, it was able to show that the concept would work in real-world conditions.

A subsequent Levelised Cost of Energy (LCoE) analysis for the design, basing calculations on a 500MW offshore farm based in UK waters, was carried out by ORE Catapult, which estimated an LCoE of £95/MWh by 2025 – although that could be as low as £91/MWh. Forecasts suggest the TLPWIND® concept, using larger turbines, could deliver costs as low as £88/MWh by 2030 and potentially as low as £64/MWh by 2050.

Gavin Smart, Investment & Financial Analyst for ORE Catapult said:

“Floating wind is likely to be an extremely important technology as we aim to drive down the overall cost of renewable energy. TLPWIND® is a novel solution that could unlock the potential in deeper water sites than we can currently access, while delivering a platform for growth.”

In estimating the LCoE of these turbines, ORE Catapult ran projections anticipating more than 50 different scenarios, combining market rates, technological development and site variations.  Financial projections included full life cycle costs from development, through fabrication and installation, to operation and finally decommissioning.

The University of Strathclyde’s Professor Sandy Day said: “This technology has been shown to work and it has been shown to reduce cost. We carried out rigorous testing of the scale models and found that even under stressful conditions, the platform is both stable and robust.”

Delegates at the event were able to see a scale model of the technology in action, including a tow test and demonstration of installation.