Some days after Danish energy provider Dong announced it had signed off plans to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm there are news of another milestone in the UK’s push for renewable energy : The Scottish government has granted consent for the world’s largest floating offshore windfarm to be developed off the coast of Peterhead.
Norwegian Oil and gas company Statoil will build a 30MW pilot park consisting of five floating 6MW turbines, which could power nearly 20,000 homes. The project will be the UK’s first ever floating windfarm development, with construction scheduled to begin on the project in early 2016.
The Hywind Scotland floating wind farm will include five turbines each with six megawatts (MW) of generating capacity.
But why floating turbines? According to Carbon Trust, it’s all about cost. It believes that floating developments have the potential to “reduce generating costs to below £100/MWh” in commercial environments. Nonetheless, concepts like Statoil’s Hywind are already driving down costs to between £85-£95MWh.
Where traditional turbines are built into the sea bed, the Hywind turbines are placed on top of a ballasted steel cylinder that is anchored to the sea floor using three anchored mooring lines. This makes it easier to install them in deep water. Norway became host to the world’s first full-scale floating turbine in 2009, but Statoil is now ready to expand its footprint with a pilot park off the mid-eastern shores of Scotland.
According to the Guardian,this project differs from conventional offshore windfarms by using turbines attached to the seabed by a three-point mooring spread and anchoring system. The turbines are interconnected by cables, one of which exports electricity from the pilot farm to the shore at Peterhead.
Floating wind turbines are at the bleeding edge of offshore wind technology and are unlikely to become competitive with other forms of renewable energy for at least a decade.
Last month the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) released a report indicating that floating offshore wind could be a credible, cost-effective form of low-carbon energy for the UK by the mid-2020’s.
Bloomberg says that Statoil’s only commercial wind project in production is the Sheringham Shoal farm offshore eastern England. It also made an investment decision on the nearby Dudgeon project last year and is a partner on two Dogger Bank projects, which were approved by the U.K. earlier this year.
Scotland’s Oil and Gas industry declines
BBC reports that the North Sea oil and gas industry is set suffer a net loss 23,000 jobs over the next five years – more than 4,000 a year every year to 2020 – with many of these expected to go in Aberdeen and Grampian areas.
On Oct.18 FT.com reported that two of the biggest independent oil explorers in the North Sea have predicted a further 10,000 jobs will be lost from the sector, indicating a growing acceptance that oil prices are stuck in a prolonged slump.
Since late last year, 5,500 people directly employed in the industry have lost their jobs — 15 per cent of the total workforce — due to the fall in the price of oil, according to Oil & Gas UK, a trade body for the offshore sector.
The UK’s North Sea is the most expensive place in the world to extract oil, unfortunately due to high staff costs and declining reserves, which means that companies have to spend more to reach what is left.
The oil majors have made the steepest job cuts. Shell has axed 500 posts, BP has cut 200 full-time jobs and 100 contractors, and Conoco has cut 230 staff jobs. But smaller operators, which are often more focused on the North Sea, are also feeling the effects. Companies such as EnQuest and Premier have reduced both the amount they spend on contracted staff in particular, by cutting both numbers and pay.
Sources: Guardian, Scotland.gov.uk, Statoil, Bloomberg, BBC.
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