Construction of the world’s largest floating wind farm is now set to begin off the coast of Scotland, leading to renewable energy for around 20,000 households in 2017.
The 30MW project, called Hywind, is hailed as a solution to the problem of tapping into the North Sea’s huge wind-energy potential without the high cost of fixing turbines to the seabed in deep water.
The starting pistol on the $245m scheme was fired today when rights holder Crown Estate granted a lease to the area known as Buchan Deep to Hywind’s developer, Norway’s oil company Statoil.
Five 6MW turbines will bob 25km offshore Peterhead, near Aberdeen, in water depths of up to 120m, which is deeper than any offshore UK wind installation to date.
The pilot park will cover around 4 sq km in an area of the North Sea where wind speeds average 10 metres per second, according to Statoil.
Hywind is scheduled to begin generating electricity by the end of next year.
"We are very pleased to develop this project in Scotland, in a region with a huge wind resource and an experienced supply chain from oil and gas," said Leif Delp, Statoil’s project director for Hywind.
"Through the hard work of industry and supportive government policies, the UK and Scotland is taking a position at the forefront of developing offshore wind as a competitive new energy source."
Statoil has been testing the concept of a floating turbine in a demonstration project off the Norwegian coast, and made the final investment decision for Hywind Scotland in November last year, committing $245m (NOK 2 billion).
The concept involves mounting the turbines on floating ballasted cylinders, each moored by three lines to the seabed.
Statoil says its proprietary pitch-motion control system is integrated with the turbine’s control system to mitigate the loss of generating capacity caused by excessive wave motion.
When Statoil made its final investment decision last year Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president for New Energy Solutions, said the innovation would catalyse a global market.
"Our objective with the Hywind pilot park is to demonstrate the feasibility of future commercial, utility-scale floating wind farms," she said.
"This will further increase the global market potential for offshore wind energy, contributing to realising our ambition of profitable growth in renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions."
In March this year Statoil awarded UK-based Balfour Beatty an $8m (£5.5m) contract for the electrical system interface on Hywind. The contract includes engineering, procurement, construction and installation for the onshore cable and substation in Peterhead.
Photograph: Statoil’s illustration of floating Hywind turbines off Scotland (Statoil)