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Deepwater demonstration

A Canadian oil giant says it is ready to start the next phase of a £24 million demonstration wind project in deep water off Scotland's north-east coast. Two prototype wind turbines will be installed next to its Beatrice oil field, 25 kilometres out to sea.

Canadian oil giant Talisman Energy says it is ready to start the next phase of a £24 million demonstration wind project in deep water off Scotland's north-east coast. Two prototype wind turbines will be installed next to its Beatrice oil field, 25 kilometres out to sea.

"The existing infrastructure of Beatrice offers a unique opportunity to test the feasibility of wind farms in water depths of 35 to 45 metres," says Talisman boss Jim Buckee. Initially, the two turbines will supply power to the oilfield, but if the economics make sense the project will lead to a large scale commercial development. "We hope to show that it is possible to use oil and gas expertise in the renewable energy business," he says.

The project will be paid for 50-50 by public and private money. The Scottish Executive and the UK government's Department of Trade and Industry will each contribute £3 million and £6 million will come from the EU. The remaining £12 million will be provided equally by Talisman and the project's co-sponsor, electricity generator Scottish and Southern Energy. Both companies have shared the £2 million spent so far on four feasibility studies. Eventually the plan is to build a full scale commercial wind station of 200 turbines with an output of up to 1000 MW -- almost 20% of Scotland's electricity demand.

The first two Beatrice turbines will be the lynchpin of a £30 million pan-European initiative, DOWNVInD (Distant Offshore Windfarms with No Visual Impact in Deepwater). DOWNVInD was established by the EU to help commercialise deep water wind farm technology and includes 14 organisations from six European countries. The aims is to reduce costs of installing deepwater wind farms by at least 20%, which the project partners claim will make the technology economically viable.

"The DOWNVInD project can contribute substantially to the future development of EU policy in this area," says the EU's outgoing transport and energy commissioner, Loyola de Palacio. DOWNVInD is Europe's largest renewable energy research and technology program.

The consortium has yet to choose a contractor to build the project. According to Talisman's Allan MacAskill, turbines with capacity ratings of 3-5 MW are being considered. "Our preference is to go for the biggest we can get," he says. Three or four manufacturers are in the running for the contract, which is to be put out to tender before the end of October, subject to Commission approval. Talisman expects construction of the turbines to begin this year, with completion in late 2006.

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