Offshore turbines need to be both big and direct drive - Alstom

OFFSHORE: French power engineering company Alstom says its Spanish-based turbine manufacturing affiliate, Ecotècnia, plans to develop its first offshore turbine by 2014.

The prototype of SWAY's 10MW floating offshore turbine

"We're sure the future for offshore lies in very large machines without gearboxes, and that's where we're aiming," Phillipe Cochet, head of Alstom Wind & Hydro said at a presentation this week.

Couchet was unable to go into details but said the machine would be "considerably larger" than the 3MW capacity of its most powerful model. Two companies, SWAY and Clipper Windpower, are building 10MW offshore turbines.

He also said direct drive marked a "new and exciting technological challenge" for the company. "We will arrive in time for the offshore takeoff and for Round Three of the UK's offshore building programme."

Alstom announced an agreement with the Catalonian Research and Development Centre (IREC), based near Ecotècnia's headquarters in Barcelona, to develop wind power technology, "with special emphasis on offshore for deep waters and on integrating wind power into the grid."

IREC is already developing an offshore turbine certification and test site planned for 2012 off the Catalonian coast. Alstom is also developing a floating offshore turbine design with Spanish developer Iberdrola Renovables.

Alstom is the world's biggest installer of hydropower capacity and finalised the acquisition of Ecotècnia in 2007 to bring wind into its ambit also, with immediate plans to expand internationally.

Couchet confirmed that Alstom has started ground work on its first US turbine base, a 300MW facility in the Texan town of Amarrillo, where it will turn out 1.65MW and 3MW machines. This follows an agreement earlier this year to build a 300MW facility in Brazil.