Offshore Wind – Tricky

The chaps at the Carbon Trusts have belatedly worked out that off shore wind farms are tricky beasts, particularly the upcoming ‘Phase 3’ lot of deep water wind farms. As we’ve used up all the easy to get to spots off shore, and as people are starting to complain about having a large, noisy, ugly bird muncher on land, we must head to deep water and that is a problem.

To solve this they have launched OWA, the Offshore Windfarm Access challenge. For obvious reasons the normal deep offshore approach wont work (helicopters and windmills go together almost as badly as birds and windmills) so they need to get there by boat. For the current generation pretty much anything will do as it’s not to choppy inshore, so the waves are small and currents low, while the windmills themselves are relatively small. It’s usually a small little 10m jobbie that uses a gangplang to get onto the access platform, no crew accommodation to speak off and fairly limited range and endurance.

In contrast the Phase 3 windfarms will be something like 300km into the North Sea, be far bigger and have to deal with high winds and big waves, the design scenario being 5m high waves and 30knot wind. Hence the need for a new shiny transfer system. And make no mistake a transfer system is important as offshore windmills run at only ~90% availability (not load factor, though availability is one of the components of load factor) and that’s for windmills in shallow water. In deep water and being hit by North Sea storms that figure will plunge, particularly when you consider the main causes of failure; the turbine controller trips out. No seriously, 70% of all ‘repairs’ are turning-it-off-and-on-again which apparently cannot be done remotely and needs a bloke on a boat to do. If the controllers get phased by inshore conditions the central North Sea is going to eat them alive, in all honesty this should probably be a contest to make hardened and competent control systems, but that would be too logical for the Carbon Trust I suppose.#

For those of you with an interest find here the project spec, you too could win £100,000 in development money and possibly millions to build a prototype. For everyone else fear not, windmill makers still need help building foundations (it’s deep, giant concrete pillars just aren’t cutting it), sorting out the wake effect of windmills (i.e. how far apart they have to be) and electrical transfer systems (how on earth to get the electricity back to the mainland).

As the Carbon Trust is very generously funded by the inordinately retarded Climate Change Levy (which is far too mind blowingly stupid to discuss here in detail) there will be plenty of money to be thrown at all these problems, not to mention the dozens of other problems they haven’t even thought of yet, because as I said at the top; Offshore Wind – Tricky.


2 Responses to “Offshore Wind – Tricky”

  1. […] (how much of the total theoretical production was actually produced) was far lower. As we saw last time on off-shore windfarms that ain’t good. The deep ff-shore windmills would hope to be available […]

  2. […] about a year ago I noted the Offshore Wind Accelerator scheme trying to overcome the problems of deep water offshore wind being tricky and noted that in addition to the problems they were trying to solve there would […]

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