Weekly Intelligence Brief: September 19 – September 26

A round-up of this week's global wind energy news, from Wind Energy Update. This week's top three stories include: UK must drop “laissez-faire approach” to offshore transmission; Carbon Trust shortlists 13 designs; Granite Reliable Power bags $169m loan guarantee from DOE.



UK must drop “laissez-faire approach” to offshore transmission

A new report by the UK government’s Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee emphasises that immediate action is necessary to ensure the UK’s offshore grid is developed in a coherent, low cost manner. As such, the Government must “end its laissez-faire approach to offshore transmission” and set out a plan for developing an interconnected, integrated offshore network.

In July this year, the government increased its ambition for the deployment of offshore wind generation by 2020 from 13 GW to 18 GW. According to the report, this strategy is a big gamble. The report warns that while supporting offshore wind makes sense, it should not be forgotten that offshore wind is a “notoriously expensive and intermittent source of electricity”, which could end up reducing the reliability of electricity supply and imposing an unacceptable cost on consumers.

A suitable transmission system must therefore be developed to match the ambitious plans for offshore renewables. This system could deliver electricity efficiently onto the grid, help balance out intermittency, and provide a route to export when supply is abundant. Only this way will electricity system be able to cope with the increasing penetration of intermittent renewables, situated far from where the electricity is needed.

The report stresses that the UK government must pursue the development of an integrated grid in home waters and begin bilateral negotiations to create new shared infrastructure with its European neighbours. The development of a methodology for sharing costs is of particular urgency.

The current usage of point-to-point connections from a single offshore wind farm to the land is shortsighted, says the report. This haphazard approach is costly, inefficient and requires a huge amount of infrastructure, particularly where electricity cables come ashore. By contrast, sharing transmission assets, would enable cost savings, increase efficiency, and reduce the environmental impact of network reinforcements.



Carbon Trust shortlists 13 designs

The Carbon Trust, a UK government-funded company, has shortlisted concepts as part of a competition to solve the problem of transferring engineers and equipment safely on to wind turbines as far as 300km offshore in wave heights up to around three metres. In all, 13 designs have been chosen from 450 submissions.

The project aims to improve the economics of offshore wind by keeping turbines generating electricity in the harshest sea conditions. The objective is to increase revenues by as much as £3b for the next generation of the UK’s offshore wind farms.

Among the 13 designs shortlisted are a giant robotic arm for transferring engineers and equipment to the turbine base; a boat that uses suspension inspired by Paris Dakar-winning rally cars to remain stable for the transfer; a ‘seahorse’ vessel consisting of a towering keel that minimises movements in the ocean swell; and a giant harbour mother ship that would act as a base for engineers for weeks on end, dispatching smaller daughter craft to access the turbines.

Each of the successful applicants to the competition will benefit from funding of up to £100,000 to support the design and development of their concept.

The competition has selected the following 13 designs, in three categories, to receive funding:

• Transfer systems – To transfer personnel and equipment from vessel to turbine, potentially with motion-compensation

o Autobrow, South Boats

o MOTS, Momac GmBH

o Wind Bridge, Knud Hansen

o TAS2, BMT Nigel Gee / Houlder

• Vessels – Vessels for transporting personnel and equipment from permanent bases or mother ships to turbines, incorporating a transfer system

o Pivoting Deck Vessel, North Sea Logistics

o Nauti-Craft, Nauti-Craft

o Fjellstrand Vessel, Fjellstrand

o SES Vessel, Umoe Mandal

o SolidSea, University of Strathclyde

o TranSPAR, Extreme Ocean Innovation

• Launch and recovery systems – Systems fitted to the permanent bases or mother ships for launching and recovering daughter craft from the sea.

o Launch & Recovery, Offshore Kinetics

o Z Port, Z Technologies

o Launch And Recovery System, Divex




Granite Reliable Power bags $169m loan guarantee from DOE

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has finalised a partial guarantee for US$168.9 million loan to Granite Reliable Power, a subsidiary of renewable energy company Noble Environmental Power. The loan guarantee will support a 99MW wind generation project that will be New Hampshire’s largest wind farm. The project will be located in Coos County in northern New Hampshire, approximately 110 miles north of Concord.

The wind generation project will consist of 33 Vestas V90 3.0-MW wind turbines.

Project sponsors BAIF Granite and Freshet Wind Energy expect the project will fund nearly 200 construction jobs.

WestLB is the lender-applicant for the project, which was submitted under the Financial Institution Partnership Program (FIPP). In a FIPP financing, DOE provides a partial guarantee for up to 80% of a loan provided to a renewable energy project by qualified financial institutions.



Dong Energy signs €240m loan for the Anholt offshore wind farm

Helsinki, Finland-based Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) and Danish energy company Dong Energy have signed a loan totalling €240 million (DKK 1.8 billion) for financing the Anholt offshore wind farm.

NIB is the common international financial institution of the eight Nordic and Baltic countries.

The 10-year-maturity loan has been provided for constructing the new offshore wind farm in the Kattegat between Jutland and the island of Anholt.

The offshore wind farm project consists of 111 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 3.6 MW. The offshore wind farm is expected to supply its first power in 2012 and to be commissioned in 2013.



GE’s 1.6-100 wind turbine gains traction

GE has secured more than 1,200MW of commitments for its 1.6-100 wind turbine. The 750 additional turbines bring the total number of orders and commitments to $2.7 billion and more than 2GW to date.

In total, 1,248 of the 1.6-100 wind turbine technology will be put into wind farms in North and South America over the next two years.

GE’s 1.6-100 wind turbine was launched in May this year. The machine combines the performance of GE’s 1.5MW wind turbine series with certified components from the advanced technology of its 2.5-100 wind turbine. It features blades that extend 100 meters.

It offers a 47% increase in swept area over previous megawatt-class models, resulting in a 19% increase in annual energy production at 7.5 meters per second wind speed. GE’s current product portfolio includes wind turbines with rated capacities ranging from 1.5 to 4.1 MW.



Dominion drives down cost of offshore wind power

Dominion, a provider of electricity in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the US, has won a two-year, US$500,000 grant from the US Department of Energy to explore ways to reduce the cost of offshore wind electricity generation.

The project aims to achieve reduce the levelised cost of energy by at least 25%, relative to a benchmark 600-MW power station design. The cost reductions will be achieved via an optimal combination of innovation in turbine, foundation, installation and electrical infrastructure.

The DOE grant is one of 41 projects across 20 US states. This brings the total for DOE funding announced this month to US$43 million, to be paid out over the next five years.

Dominion’s project partners include the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in Arlington, Virginia; the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Alstom Power; and Moffatt & Nichol, an international maritime engineering firm.

Dominion also is assessing how to build a high-voltage underwater transmission line extending from Virginia Beach out to the potential commercial lease area in the Atlantic Ocean. Dominion plans to complete the study this year.