“We’re a new entrant in offshore wind, and it’s fun to be shaking things up a little bit!” says Anne Strømmen Lycke, StatoilHydro vice president, wind power. “We’re bringing in new ideas and using all our experience from offshore oil and gas.”
Towering 65 meters above water with a rotor diameter of 80 meters, StatoilHydro’s planned Hywind offshore floating wind turbine – the first ever of its kind – will be impressive in size. But few people will ever get the chance to admire it in its working life, as it will be towed to a location in the North Sea, ten km off Karmøy on Norway’s west coast. That is the whole point.
Since so much resistance to wind power has centred on concerns about aesthetics, the need for space and potential environmental concerns, much hope rests on the Hywind project in which many of these issues are mitigated. Ever fewer onshore and shallow-water sites are available. In addition, some areas have very limited or no shallow shelves to use, such as California, Japan and Norway. The questions remaining are, “Can it be done?” and more specifically, “At what cost?”
That remains to be found out, as the wind turbine is scheduled to run for a two-year trial period.
Ms. Lycke believes that floating wind turbines can one day be an important source of cost-efficient renewable energy – with parks full of 100-meter-tall turbines in oceans across the globe. “We’ve had a lot of people calling us in talking with us about the possibility of future offshore wind turbine parks in their countries,” says Ms. Lycke.
A delegation from StatoilHydro recently accompanied the King of Norway on an official visit to Portugal, and learned about the innovative Portuguese programmes to support offshore wind development.
“We think this will be a new icon, symbolising our company’s technology, innovation and ability to look in new directions. It is opening up a whole new business area in the world,” she says of the NOK 400 million project. ”It’s easy for us to find partners – and that’s always a good sign.”
The power platform uses a floating structure known from the oil and gas industry, a technology that StatoilHydro has years of experience with in its offshore operations, secured with three anchors in waterdepths of 100–700 meters. The sites available for offshore wind parks are thereby multiplied. Although the platform is full size, engineers have settled for a relatively small, conventional turbine.
“We want to test the concept, so we’re using a 2.3 MW Siemens turbine. It’s one of the world’s most tested turbines, so we’re sure it will work properly,” says Ms. Lycke.
A smalle-scale model has been tested in a water tank at Marintek in Trondheim. Technip will deliver the sub-surface-floating element, and Nexans will lay the subsea cable to land. Engineers will be able to control the turbine remotely, adjusting the angle of the rotors in relation to wind and waves. All of the data will be recorded and used in the two-year research project. The electricity generated will be delivered to Haugaland Kraft, a Norwegian power company.
“The interaction between the wind and waves will be exciting to see,” says Ms. Lycke. “If it is as successful as we think it will be, there will be no reason why we shouldn’t decide to let it continue to produce electricity after two years have passed.”
The turbine is designed to have a lifespan of 25 years, but already StatoilHydro is working with partners – among others, DNV – to see how the original design life can be extended.
StatoilHydro already operates an Arctic land-based wind turbine park at Havøygavlen in Finnmark, northern Norway; the world’s northernmost wind turbine park. The experience of operating the park for the past six years in harsh weather conditions, including extreme temperatures, has been invaluable. Havøygavlen is jointly owned with the Dutch company Nuon.
The European Union has stated that 20 per cent of its energy should come from renewable sources by 2020. Ms. Lycke thinks this will be a challenge. But some European countries, such as the UK, are investing large resources into making this happen. The UK is about to go ahead with a third licensing round for offshore fixed wind turbines, and StatoilHydro is intending to make a bid.
Before offshore wind energy can really get going, politicians have to make some key decisions. “There’s a lot of political goodwill in Norway for wind energy, and that’s important. The previous petroleum and energy minister did a good job of promoting Norway, and focusing on the possibilities for
becoming a big exporter of renewable energy. But to develop offshore wind, you need laws and regulations that we don’t have now. We have also asked for a licensing system similar to that used for the oil and gas industry, which would solve some of the usage conflicts,” she says.
The power generated from offshore wind turbines will be more expensive to produce than the current market price. Ms. Lycke expects that state subsidies will be needed to support the greener energy, but how much remains to be seen.
If wind parks are built in four North Sea blocks, she says, the energy generated will equal the production from the Ormen Lange field, which produces 22 BCM. That is equal to 20 per cent of the UK’s natural gas consumption.
Hydro had ten years of experience with wind energy before the merger with Statoil. “Wind energy has really been supported in the new company,” says Ms. Lycke. “There’s a real focus on technology and innovation here, and this fits in very well. The combination of Statoil and Hydro has made us stronger in renewable energy. We have a broader portfolio and a more pronounced focus on technology. Our main focus areas are CO2 management, renewable power production and sustainable biofuel.”
StatoilHydro takes part in a wave energy project where three floating test devices off the coast of Portugal use pressure from wave movements to generate electricity. Also, an underwater turbine that harvests tidal energy has been running in Kvalsundet in Finnmark for five years with good
results – owned by Hammerfest Strøm AS where StatoilHydro is the main shareholder.
“Commercially, that’s very interesting, since the tide is moving all the time. It’s a lot easier to sell into the electricity grid, when it’s a stable production,” says Ms. Lycke.
Dato: 25. august 2008