Haliade chosen for Virginia Beach pilot project

Two of Alstom's 6MW machines will be used at demo site 35km off the coast of Virginia

Two Alstom Haliade 150 6MW turbines will be used in a demonstration project planned 35km off Virginia Beach by a consortium led by Dominion Virginia Power, the French manufacturer has announced.

The Virginia pilot is one of seven that will share a €28m award made by the US Department of Energy last week. The grants aim to reduce the cost of offshore wind by addressing various technological challenges.

The US deployment is the only confirmed order so far for the Haliade, apart from the 238 turbines it is to supply to three projects under France's first offshore tender. These are due for installation in 2017 at the earliest.

EDF and Alstom area also likely to submit a joint bid in France's second offshore tender, due to be launched early next year.

Alstom recently completed commissioning of the Haliade and is now carrying out operational tests for certification. These year-long tests will take place in parallel on the onshore prototype at Le Carnet, in France, and on the first offshore machine, due to be installed in Belgian waters early next year.

The offshore prototype is currently being assembled at Alstom's temporary factory at Saint-Nazaire, on France's Atlantic coast. GE Power Conversion is providing the generator and Alstom Grid the offshore substation. LM Wind Power (LMWP) will supply the blades from its factory in Denmark, while Lemants of Belgium will make the jacket foundation and Idesa, also of Belgium, will furnish the monopiles.

Installation work will be carried out by GeoSea and Swire Blue Ocean. It is not yet known who will supply the tower. The turbine will be installed at the Belwind facility, 45 kilometers off the Belgian coast. It will undergo tests covering specific marine operations and procedures and completing the technical and product performance.

Meanwhile, Alstom has received planning permission to build the first of two permanent factories at Saint-Nazaire. Construction was originally expected to start this year, but is now scheduled by March, ready to begin assembling nacelles and generators in 2014.

In 2015, two further factories manufacturing blades − in association with LMWP − and towers should also come on stream at Cherbourg. Overall, Alstom says it will invest €100 million at the two sites and create 1,000 direct and up to 4,000 indirect jobs in the region. The company is currently identifying possible local subcontractors, though has not yet signed any contracts.

Alstom will also establish an engineering centre dedicated to offshore wind at Nantes, upriver from Saint-Nazaire. Staff will start being hired next summer, to reach a workforce of around 200 over the next three-to-four years.