Floating Turbines: Statoil heads for deeper waters

Norwegian company Statoil is looking at locations for what would be the world's first commercial wind farm using floating turbines.

A number of locations off the coast of Scotland and Norway are being investigated, according to a spokesman for Statoil, although he adds that it is too early to go into detail.

The farm, which would consist of three to five turbines, would be connected to the grid. Statoil plans a three-year feasibility study to look at how this can be done. It will also examine the costs of using the technology.

"Wind parks based on floating structures are not commercially viable in today's market," says the spokesman. "We therefore need time and a step-by-step approach to commercialise the concept."

Floating turbines are currently at research-and-development phase. Their main benefit is that they can be deployed at depths of up to 640 metres, whereas traditional foundation-based turbines are mostly at a depth of 10-20 metres. Though they can be built at greater depths, the foundation structure becomes increasingly expensive.

If floating turbines could be commercially viable, the concept could open up countries with deep coastal waters to the potential of offshore wind. The technology is being tested in a couple of locations, but each only has one turbine.

Statoil is already testing a floating 2.3MW Siemens turbine in Norwegian coastal waters at a depth of 220 metres. The two-year trial will cost NOK 400 million (EUR44.1 million). This pilot is not intended to earn money from power generation, but to test how extreme weather affects the structure so that the concept can be commercialised.

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