*The National Renewable Energy Centre, Narec, has completed the installation of an offshore research and anemometry platform, three nautical miles off the coast of Blyth, Northumberland, next to the nearest shore array of the proposed 100MW capacity Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site.
The platform has been fitted with the latest technologies for measuring wind resource, observing marine conditions and collecting marine life data. At a height of 103m above sea level, its meteorological mast is amongst the tallest planned for offshore wind in the UK and the data collected will validate conditions on the proposed demonstration site for next generation turbines up to 8MW.
Andrew Mill, Chief Executive at Narec, said: “The installation represents a significant step forward in the realization of the demonstration project, which has been designed to enable the commercialization of the next generation of offshore wind turbines and their associated structures and electrical network equipment. This is the right time for manufacturers to provide assurance to investors in the sector by building up operating hours on their new designs in a realistic offshore environment.”
The platform has been designed for a 22-year life and its installation on a tripod structure at 37m water depth follows the approach being taken for the installation of wind turbines in deep waters. As well as providing a benchmark for tenants to monitor the performance of turbines on the Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site, it provides an open-access research facility to trial new technologies and processes intended to reduce the timescales and costs of the consenting process for offshore wind.
Andrew adds: “To reduce the future costs of up-scaling offshore wind requires innovation through the whole process of design, manufacture, installation and operation of wind farms, particularly as we go into deeper water farther out at sea. Our North Sea demonstration site provides a microcosm of the environment in which the majority of UK Round 3 Sites will be built out in. We are providing a shop window in water depths ranging between 35m and 58m for tenants to prove the performance and durability of larger prototypes and early-series production models.”
The contract for the installation of the anemometry platform was awarded to SeaRoc earlier this year. The structure’s 53m-high tripod foundation, weighing 535 tons, 60-tonne platform and a 25-tonne meteorological mast were assembled offshore after being collected from the manufacturers on the Tyne. SeaRoc developed an installation solution that was focused on risk mitigation and, working together with its subcontractors, ensured it was completed with zero incidents and accidents and to a very compressed schedule.
Narec submitted an application to the Marine Management Organization in March 2012 for consent of the proposed 100MW capacity Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site and a decision is expected within 12 months. A competitive tendering process is also underway to select tenants for the proposed three arrays to demonstrate turbines up to 195m blade tip height. The private sector investment required to build out the site, if consented, will be circa £0.4 billion and the project aims to have the first turbines in operation in 2014.