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World’s first floating wind farm being assembled off coast of north-east Scotland

25 July 2017

Construction has begun on the world’s first full-scale floating wind farm, around 15 miles off the coast of north-east Scotland. Five giant turbines will be installed in the Hywind project by operator Statoil of Norway, which together are expected to provide 30 megawatts of energy, enough to power 20,000 homes. One of the turbines was installed in late July, with the rest expected to be in place by the end of August.

The first Hywind turbine is towed out to UK waters - Image: Statoil
The first Hywind turbine is towed out to UK waters - Image: Statoil

The Hywind project is being run in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi firm Masdar. The £190m cost was subsidised by bill-payers under the UK government's Renewable Obligation Certificates.

Leif Delp, the director of the project, said the objective was to demonstrate the feasibility of future commercial, utility-scale wind farms.

He added: “This will further increase the global market potential for offshore wind energy, contributing to realising our ambition of profitable growth in renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions.”

Statoil sees much potential in deep water wind projects, especially off Japan and the west coast of the US. The company has been operating a pilot floating turbine device in Norway since 2009 and says output from the turbines is expected to equal or surpass generation from current ones.

"This is a tech development project to ensure it's working in open sea conditions. It's a game-changer for floating wind power and we are sure it will help bring costs down," said Delp.

Each turbine is 175m high with 75m blades and weighs 11,500 tonnes, and the lower part operates as a large buoy to keep the turbine upright, like a fishing float. The turbines also make use of new blade technology, which sees the blades twist in order to lessen the impact of wind and currents.

The park will be around four square kilometres in size 15 miles off the port of Peterhead, with each turbine floating at a depth of between 95 and 120 metres.

Unlike normal turbines, floating turbines are not attached to the seabed by foundations. Rather, they are attached by long mooring tethers, allowing them to be placed in water as deep as one kilometre. Traditional offshore fixed turbines work at a depth of 20-50m.

The price of energy from bottom-standing offshore wind farms has plummeted 32% since 2012 - far faster that anyone predicted. The price is now four years ahead of the government's expected target, and another big price drop is expected, taking offshore wind to a much lower price than new nuclear power.

"I think eventually we will see floating wind farms compete without subsidy - but to do that we need to get building at scale," said Delp.

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