Iberdrola considers floating turbines for 400MW offshore project

GERMANY: Iberdrola Renovables' newly-acquired 400MW offshore Ventotec Ost 2 project in Germany's Baltic waters could become the first to harbour commercially operational floating turbines.

Neither Iberdrola Renovables, nor the developer-seller Ventotec, is willing to dispel doubts. Speaking to Windpower Monthly, Iberdrola said: "We are analysing the different existing foundation technologies in order to choose the most appropriate one for the site, in terms of both technical and economic viability."

At the same time, the developer-seller, Ventotec -- a wind project joint-venture between DEE Deutsche Erneuerbare Energien GmbH, part of the Deutsche Bank Group, and private developer Ventotec GmbH -- confirms the permits it landed for the Ventotec Ost 2 project, in 2007, were for 400MW, consisting entirely of floating turbines.

Ventotec now says it has applied to modify the permit to authorise turbines with fixed foundation. The company declined to comment on whether any floating positions would be left in the project or whether all floating permits would be made null and void when the modification request is granted.

Ventotec 2 Ost is located 40km from the wind-swept German island of Rügen. Iberdrola confirms it still aims to use 80 turbines of 5MW each, as specified in the initial project approval, though the brand is still unknown or not decided. The turbines will turn in waters of average depth 39 metres. This is beyond the 35 metres currently considered economically viable for conventional turbine foundations to be laid, though the 10MW Beatrice pilot project in Scotland is demonstrating a new, more costly, foundation design.

The depths at Ventotec 2 Ost highlight the potential for using floating turbines. Iberdrola Renovables currently heads a Spanish R&D consortium called Emerge, aimed at starting up Spain's first floating turbine by 2011.

In all events, the acquisition of Ventotec Ost 2 consolidates Iberdrola Renovables push into the offshore sector, in which the company still has no operational capacity. The company claims a world offshore project portfolio of 12GW. That includes a joint venture with Swedish utility Vattenfall, which landed prospecting rights in January for the 7.5GW East Anglia array in the UK, as part of that country's third round of offshore concessions. Iberdrola Renovables says it is developing a further 2.3GW of offshore wind in the UK, together with 1.5GW in Spain.

In Germany, Iberdrola Renovables notes the federal government's 12GW offshore wind target to 2020. "We foresee cornering a considerable part of that market," it says.