An unusual wind turbine could hold the key to making offshore wind power more economical and help the UK meet its renewable energy targets. The Aerogenerator, a proposed 100-m tall vertical axis and v-shaped turbine, places heavy equipment at its base rather than atop a tower. Designers say it will be easier to build and maintain, thereby making its renewable electricity cheaper.
Developer Nova (Novel Offshore Vertical Axis Demonstrator) is one of three projects funded by the government-backed Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) as part of a project to find ways of bringing down the cost of offshore wind power.
The UK, by some estimates, has the greatest wind resource in Europe, about one-third of the continent’s total. Taking advantage of the country’s potential wind power will be critical in meeting targets set by the UK to meet 15% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. The government announced in January a £75 billion program to build 25 GW of offshore wind production. Nine sites are in line for development, several in 30-m deep water.
“The cost of electricity from offshore wind is about 12 to 15 p/kWh, about double the cost of onshore wind and three times the cost of conventional generation,” say ETI’s Grant Bourhill. “Our job is to significantly reduce the costs. By 2020, we want costs to be comparable to onshore generation. As we move to 2050, we want it to be comparable to conventional generation.”
Traditional offshore wind turbines seem to have reached their economic limit with the huge 10-MW units planned for the next few years. Nova could potentially deliver more. “No one understands the economic limits for vertical-axis and it may be the economic limit is significantly better than a 10 MW design can provide, so we will be able to generate electricity at a lower cost. The design could be more reliable and the maintenance costs significantly lower because the main components are closer to sea level than in horizontal-axis designs,” said Bourhill.
Nova is being developed by OTM Consulting Limited. The team aims to build a demonstrator Aerogenerator turbine offshore by 2015 and have 1GW of offshore vertical-axis turbines installed by 2020. Each turbine would generate between 5 and 10 MW but, because each would be cheaper to build than an equivalent conventional turbine, the overall cost of an offshore wind farm, and the electricity, should be lower.
ETI’s funding is aimed at producing detailed design specifications for the ideas. Bourhill says once the institute evaluates several plans, one will be in line for a multi-million pound demonstration project.
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