Ofshore costs viable and competive

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Offshore wind energy is fully viable today at a cost around ECU 0.05/kWh at sites with good wind conditions and good availability, assuming a mean wind speed of 8.4 m/s at 60 m, a 20 year loan and 5% rate of interest. So concludes an international consortium of industrial companies and researchers in a recently completed study part funded by the European Commission. Offshore wind farms of the future with 3 MW wind turbines are realistic and economic, offering the prospect of energy prices as low as 0.03 ECU/kWh.

The consortium members include two groups from Delft University in the Netherlands, the Swedish giant Kvaerner Oil & Gas Ltd, Kvaerner Turbin AB, which has some experience in multi-megawatt wind turbines, the University of Sunderland in the UK and a Dutch utility, Energie Noord West. The aim of the study is to speed the commercial exploitation of offshore sites in a time scale of five to ten years.

The project focuses on practical solutions based upon currently available technology as well as the development of innovative support structures. After identification of cost drivers and estimation of costs, design work for three distinctly different concepts and sites was undertaken. The options examined included machine sizes from 1.5 MW-4 MW, support structures such as tubular or lattice towers, or monopiles -- a single pile driven into the sea bed on which the turbine is mounted.

The study highlighted the importance of operation and maintenance, which is a key cost driver, along with support structure costs. Detailed costs were evaluated for coastal areas around Britain, Denmark, Germany and southern Sweden. The results suggest that the annual mean wind speed and distance from shore are the most important parameters influencing energy cost. The western shores of the British Isles, for example, are economically more attractive than the eastern shores. Likewise, most Danish North Sea locations, although in a more demanding environment, show better performance than Baltic sites.

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