Monday, 25 June 2012

Pilot floating wind power project seeks EU funds
17 Jun 2012

Investors in the world's first floating wind turbine are seeking European Union funding to build five more off the coast of Portugal following the success of initial testing of the device. The wind power generator, which cost 20 million euros ($25.3 million), floats over deep ocean waters, unlike previous offshore wind farms built in shallow waters and attached to the ocean floor.

EDP and Seattle-based Principle Power, partners in the project, said the pilot produced 1.7 GWs of energy per hour (GWh) on average since its blades started turning six months ago, enough to supply power to 1,300 families. "This was a great success, our calculations have proved right, and the unit performed as predicted. But this was a conservative design. Next time we will be more optimistic", Principle Power Chief Executive Alla Weinstein told Reuters.

The pilot sits six km off the coast of the windy town of Povoa do Varzim, close to Porto in northern Portugal. It is 54 metres tall and weighs 1,200 tonnes, with a turbine from Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems and backup from Repsol and other local partners. Its capacity at 2 MWs (MW) is just below the average of offshore wind turbines in Europe, which was 3.6 MW at end-2011, according to the European Wind Energy Association. Construction of a bigger wind farm park now awaits EU funding.

"We have applied for a European Commission funding scheme that creates a tariff-like funding mechanism when you produce energy. It is provided through the monetisation of carbon credits", Weinstein said. Construction and testing would then commence on a larger scale. "After the prototypes are fully tested, we start with the commercial phase in two years' time, with the objective of starting to have some return on the investment", Pedro Valverde, the project manager at EDP, said.

The first wind turbine is connected to the grid through cables that run on the ocean floor and are linked to an onshore sub-station. If the distances are much greater than 6 km, the plan is to build mid-ocean substations. "These electrical cables are relatively inexpensive", Valverde said. Portugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva told reporters at a presentation of the first results of the pilot test, "We can't help but feel a bit proud about being in the front line in renewable energy. This must be a priority for Europe if it wants to reach its 2020 (carbon reduction) goals".