Researchers have designed and patented a floating platform for offshore wind turbines that they believe can reduce costs up to 12 euro cents per kilowatt hour.
A team of researchers from the the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) developed the new model of a floating structure for offshore wind turbines, called WindCrete, that is capable of being anchored at much greater sea depths. At the same time, this new prototype makes floating offshore wind competitive through cost savings in construction and maintenance.
The prototype was designed through the framework of the European Alternative floating offshore substructure for offshore wind farms (AFOSP) project, which itself is carried out as part of the framework of KIC-InnoEnergy, in collaboration with Stuttgart Wind Energy at the University of Stuttgart and Gas Natural Fenosa.
Researchers Climent Molins (shown right) and Alexis Campos, of the UPC’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, developed the new prototype, which uses concrete instead of the normally costly-steel, reducing construction costs by 60%. The cylindrical structure has a large float and a ballast base which allows it to be self-stabilizing — a vital component in any floating offshore platform, especially in the more dangerous and turbulent seas found in offshore wind hotspots like northern Europe.
Interestingly, unlike many traditional offshore wind installations, the minimum depth is much deeper — the WindCrete requiring 90 meters to allow for its partially-submerged design. On the flip-side, WindCrete has no technical maximum depth — for example, there are oil platforms of similar design anchored in the Gulf of Mexico at depths of up to 2,300 meters.
Floating wind turbines are likely to be a more and more common theme among new renewable energy technologies, given the amount of research and development currently being focused on the technology. Earlier this month Scotland approved construction of the world’s largest floating wind farm offshore from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. The 30 MW project will be developed by Statoil, and is expected to be completed sometime late in 2017.