New technology is being tested under tough conditions just off the island of Karmøy north of Stavanger. The goal is to make Norway a leading exporter in the field of offshore wind power.
- Offshore wind
Two big wind turbines can be discerned on the horizon from the breakwater at the small port of Sandvehamn. Just over 10 kilometres from land, they form the Marine Energy Test Centre (METCentre) for offshore wind.
This facility is only a short voyage away for the specially built workboat carrying crew and equipment out and back. Despite heave-compensated seats, the waves certainly make themselves felt.
“Conditions here are perfect for testing offshore wind because they’re often just as tough as out on the open sea,” explains project manager Cecilia Girard-Vika at the METCentre.
Video: New technology is being tested under tough conditions just off the island of Karmøy north of Stavanger. The goal is to make Norway a leading exporter in the field of offshore wind power.
The company is using this area off Karmøy to establish how offshore wind technology functions in different sea states. Established in 2009, it ranks today as a leader in testing new renewable technology for the marine environment.
“We offer space, services and facilities in a controlled setting for such work,” explains Girard-Vika. “That helps to drive development and continued optimisation of these technologies. The aim is to permit reliable, sustainable and cost-effective renewable offshore energy generation.”
Having important infrastructure in place gives the centre unique advantages, including transmission cables for electricity exports, fibreoptic links for data transfer and – not least – challenging natural conditions.
These include water depth, currents and wind, while the geographical position is also perfect thanks to its proximity to shipyards, ports and big markets in the North Sea.
Why is the PSA writing about offshore wind?
Regulatory responsibility for offshore wind power was delegated to the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) in 2020. This authorises it to develop regulations for and conduct supervision of the development and operation of offshore wind farms.
A new set of regulations for renewable energy production offshore is due to be presented for a public consultation process in the autumn of 2023.
“I believe offshore wind will be very big,” says Arvid Nesse, CEO of the METCentre. “We’re pursuing a green transition now, which calls for new renewable energy sources – and offshore wind represents one of the most probable of these in my view.”
Also head of the Norwegian Offshore Wind Cluster, the country’s largest grouping in this sector with more than 370 member companies, he maintains that Norway is well placed to build a major new export industry here.
“We were first in the field with floating offshore wind, have led the way and have the largest number of technologies under development. Our test centre is a world leader, and such energy is relevant for all deep-water areas worldwide.”
He highlights the expertise built up over a long period in Norway, both in shipping/fishing activities and the petroleum sector.
“We’ve learnt a great deal about oil and gas over the past 50 years, and have centuries of experience in the maritime business. We’re used to working safely under demanding weather conditions in deep waters.”
As mentioned above, two floating turbines are now in place at the METCentre’s field today – including the Hywind Demo (now Unitech Zephyros) developed by Equinor and installed in 2009 as the world’s first full-scale unit of its kind.
This was supplemented in 2021 with the TetraSpar Demonstrator, a concept developed by Denmark’s Stiesdal Offshore together with Shell, RWE in Germany and Japan’s Tepco.
More projects are being planned for testing at the facility, which is licensed for a total of seven floating turbines. The METCentre’s own overview identifies 83 different concepts for such units currently under development globally.
“Many companies are now ready to test their prototypes,” says Girard-Vika. “Only a limited number of areas worldwide offer the same good test conditions as ours while also holding official licences for installing turbines off the coast.”
“We want to help lay the knowledge basis for a continued offshore wind commitment in Norway, not only technically but also in such important areas as environmental impact, safety and emergency preparedness.”
Projects planned for the centre include SeaTwirl S2, a full-scale one-megawatt (MW) demonstration unit based on a wind turbine with a vertical axle connected to a subsea unit. This comprises a buoyancy element and a keel to maintain stability when the wind rotates the turbine blades.
Flagship is another ambitious project, intended to demonstrate the world’s first 10-MW floating turbine while reducing costs to EUR 40-60 per megawatt-hour (MWh). Its innovative design features a semi-submersible concrete floater, simple mooring and new anchoring solutions. A new cable design for the turbine plus optimised installation and maintenance procedures also cut costs and enhance operating efficiency offshore.
Out on the test field, the waves have increased in intensity and heavy rain gives us visitors a foretaste of the challenges nature can present for tomorrow’s offshore wind turbines
“Weather conditions out here give us valuable data about how our technology functions under tough conditions. If you can perform here, you’ll cope in the rest of the world as well.” Girard-Vika says with a smiles.
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