Ocean energy prototypes proliferate

November 1, 2010

The ocean energy industry is still at a nascent stage, but burgeoning support in a few key markets, diverse resource potential and maturing technology are boosting the industry’s prospects for growth. That’s the verdict of a new IHS emerging energy research market study, released in October.

Global ocean energy markets and strategies: 2010-2030 expects more than 45 wave and tidal prototypes to be installed and tested this year and next, in contrast to the 12 such units installed in 2009. he study identifies over 1.8GW of ocean projects currently in the pipeline in 16 countries.

Government policy support has helped the UK, with Scotland in the vanguard, become the world’s leading market for ocean energy with 300MW of projects set for installation over the next five years.

Driven by its adherence to ambitious EU 2020 renewable targets, the UK is looking to add 1.3GW by 2020. Ireland, France, Portugal, South Korea and Australia are also key ocean energy markets and will remain the industry’s primary focus for the next decade.

googleGOOGLE LINK: A subsea power cable project linking offshore wind farms with energy grids along the US northeast coast has reportedly attracted an initial investment of $200 million from Google. It is one of a number of companies whose names have been linked to a $5 billion, 6000MW project known as the Atlantic Wind Connection backbone. The cable will stretch 350 miles off the coast from New Jersey to Virginia, collecting power from multiple offshore wind farms and delivering it via cables to parts of the land-based transmission system. Google will take a 37.5% stake in the project. Other investors include Japan's Marubeni Corporation and US company Good Energies.

According to IHS, tidal energy is poised to mature ahead of other types of ocean energy means because it provides predictable, lower-cost electricity and a standard design. Tidal energy is attracting major original equipment manufacturers (OEM) into the ocean energy industry’s supply side, the study noted.

‘The strong synergies between tidal turbine manufacturing and the hydro power industry have attracted major power sector OEMs,’ said IHS senior renewable power analyst Marianne Boust.

‘Over the past two years, all three of the major hydro power turbine vendors – Andritz Hydro, Alstom Hydro, and Voith Hydro – who account for over 80% of the total global hydro turbine supply, have jumped into the tidal sector.’

Boust said large hydro players ‘see tidal as a synergistic growth opportunity, with at least 150GW of installed capacity potential globally.’

Involvement by large OEMs is expected to help the ocean energy industry overcome its technological challenges and drive down costs. European utilities like Iberdrola-ScottishPower, Vattenfall, RWE and SSE have established a solid presence in offshore wind, and the offshore activities of each includes ocean energy. While a few have taken equity stakes in ocean technology promoters, most are now shifting to fund project development joint ventures, according to the study.

‘Continued policy support and the entrance of established energy players competing alongside maturing technology promoters signal the ocean industry’s potential to advance along the learning curve and to emerge as a scalable renewable energy alternative during the next decade,’ Boust said. JP

graph imageEstablished wind and hydro players are boosting the world's ocean energy prospects, according to a new IHS study.

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Salazar blessing for maiden US offshore wind scheme

US Interior secretary Ken Salazar and representatives from Cape Wind Associates have signed a lease for the country’s first commercial offshore wind energy development, capping a decade-long effort to begin construction of the controversial project.

The 28-year lease, signed during October’s meeting of the American Wind Energy Association in Atlantic City, New Jersey, covers 25 square miles on the Outer Continental Shelf in Nantucket Sound, offshore Massachusetts. Cape Wind plans to install 130 3.6MW wind turbines expected to generate an average output of 182MW.

The array will be tied back to shore via an electric service platform and two 115kV lines. The project, about five miles offshore, includes a 66.5-mile buried submarine transmission cable system. Construction is expected to take up to two years.

‘The signing of this lease sends an important market signal to the offshore wind industry that the United States is ready to move forward and that Cape Wind will be the first of many offshore wind projects in this country,’ said Cape Wind president Jim Gordon.

Opposition from various groups delayed permitting and forced the project’s developers to scale back from 170 turbines.

...as turbine tag team takes a bow

Gamesa and Northrop Grunman have paired up to launch an offshore wind turbine prototype. Under the deal, Gamesa, which has a US subsidiary in the wind energy business, and the Newport News Shipbuilding operations of Northrop Grumman will cooperate on launching Gamesa’s first G11X-5.0MW offshore prototype in the US, using Gamesa’s multi-megawatt technology and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding’s experience in marine environments.

Gamesa is designing and developing its WGT offshore wind turbine for the marine environment built upon technologies already extensively tested and validated with the G10X-4.5MW. Newport News is providing expertise in heavy load logistics, systems performance and reliability and the applications of such technologies in the marine environment.

The two companies are setting up an initial team of up to 40 engineers in Virginia to carry out the preliminary work required to install the first offshore prototype by 4Q 2012, including site selection, permitting, final construction and installation of the prototype and testing.

Gamesa said it is already working on the rollout of another family of offshore turbines, with a capacity of 6-7MW, with a pre-series potentially available in 2014.

scott butler

Offshore choppers alter course

With the launch of a new range of flexible services, Bristow Helicopters last month became the first leading oil & gas industry helicopter operator to declare its intentions in the renewables market and offer a dedicated service to the international offshore wind farm sector.

The company said it has developed a number of innovative commercial packages for supplying helicopter access services – including sole use, consortium and ‘pay as you use’ – to meet the varying needs of wind farm operators globally.

Scott Butler (pictured), Bristow’s European commercial manager, explained: ‘We have used our extensive expertise to develop a safe, flexible and cost effective method of helicopter access. We are also working closely with wind turbine manufacturers and wind farm operators to ensure helicopter access is considered when designing and operating turbines and substations.’

Bristow provides wind farm operators with personnel transfer (crew change and winch to work), freight transportation, aerial observations, rescue operations and winch to work training. The winching process is extremely safe and controlled with personnel being lowered from just 10ft above the turbine nacelle platform, noted Butler.

‘Delivering the engineers directly onto the platform saves a slow and difficult climb from a vessel up the turbine tower, and there is no loss of man hours due to sea sickness,’ he said, adding: ‘It’s not just people who we can transport by helicopter, the underslinging of up to 3t of freight is also well within our capabilities and likely to feature as a major component in our overall scope of works.’

A UK Round 3 offshore wind farm can have as many as 1500 turbines with each turbine requiring between five and 10 visits per annum. According to Bristow, that equates to approximately 20-40 visits to the wind farm field per day.

Wave energy design funding

The UK’s National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) has been awarded £20,000 by Design Network North to fund a research project aiming to develop a new rotary wave energy generator.

The research, to be undertaken by Newcastle University’s resource centre for innovation and design, will investigate how a generator converts the bobbing movement of a buoy on the surface of the sea into useable energy and will build on the ‘Snapper’ technology invented by Professor Ed Spooner, formerly of Durham University.

The proposed device will use the rolling motion of the sea to drive the main shaft of the generator and according to Narec has the potential to achieve a higher energy output than current devices. The system could also improve the capacity of wave energy generators to store energy and reduce subsequent losses during conversion to a suitable grid supply.


Sand handling simplified

A mobile sand removal system that allows for online solids removal at operating pressure, eliminating the requirement for production shut down, was unveiled in Scotland last month by BIS Salamis and topsides process technology specialist Merpro. Known as Restore, the new system is said to have a substantially smaller footprint than other products available on the market.

‘By taking our well established service experience and combining it with Merpro’s sand handling technology expertise, we came up with a practical solution which could combine the usual separate stages of sand washing, solids removal storage and disposal,’ explained BIS Salamis environmental business manager Jack Davidson (pictured left). ‘Effectively, Restore becomes an integral part of the production system. We are looking to roll the system out across numerous geographies, beginning with our established networks and current clients.’

Merpro managing director Corin Main (right) added: ‘By coupling technologies with integrated teams of experienced offshore engineers and offshore classified environmental personnel, we can supply a full-service package to our clients, including manning throughout workscopes.’

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