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Floating power

The peterhead turbines will stay afloat thanks to a three-point mooring system attaching them to the seabed The peterhead turbines will stay afloat thanks to a three-point mooring system attaching them to the seabed Statoil - Statoil A S A
08 Jan
2016
Plans for the world’s largest floating wind farm are given the green-light as part of growing interest in Scottish offshore wind energy

With construction due to start as early as 2016, the proposal for a new wind farm on the Scottish coast is part of a rising trend towards Scottish offshore wind. The pilot project, submitted by Norwegian oil and gas multinational Statoil, will be built 25km off the coast off Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. Its five 6MW turbines will have the capacity to power 19,900 homes.

‘As it stands, the UK is the biggest producer of offshore wind,’ says Dr Tavis Potts, senior lecturer in Environmental Geography at the University of Aberdeen, ‘mainly because the conditions are ideal: the UK coast has a plenty of wind and a history of offshore research and development.’ However, only around ten per cent of the UK’s offshore wind energy comes from Scotland, the rest being generated south of the border. The Statoil pilot project is part of a plan to unlock coastal sites on the Scottish coast.

Offshore wind is a technology that has yet to reach full maturity, and would therefore justify some level of subsidy to help gain experience and reduce costs

What makes this scheme interesting is that when completed it will be the largest floating wind farm in the world. Unlike concrete-based turbines already at sea, these stay upright by using a three-point mooring system, attached to the seabed. Professor Jim Skea, professor of Sustainable Energy at the University of London and member of the British government’s Committee on Climate Change, says the floating element ‘would probably allow you to harvest wind in deeper waters’.

Government subsidies have been removed for wind developments on land this year, pushing attention to marine areas. ‘Offshore wind is a technology that has yet to reach full maturity,’ says Skea, ‘and would therefore justify some level of subsidy to help gain experience and reduce costs.’ Potts says that land-based wind is ‘beginning to reach saturation, and geographically a small island like the Britain lends itself to offshore development.’

This article was published in the January 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

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