Norwegian Oil and Gas Company Builds First Floating Wind Turbine

sb10068874e-001Norwegian energy company StatoilHydro, the largest offshore oil and gas company in the world, announced last week that it is building the first full scale floating wind turbine - Hywind. Their projected startup is autumn 2009 after which the program will endure a two-year test period. The company plans to invest 400 million NOK (about 80 million US) in the Hywind.

“If we succeed, then we will have taken a major step in moving the wind power industry offshore", says Alexandra Bech Gjørv, head of New Energy in StatoilHydro.

The turbine will stand 65 meters above the waves and generate 2.3 megawatts of energy. The supporting buoy, called a Spar-buoy, stretches 100 meters below the surface, is tied down by 3 anchored moorings, and can work in depths of 120 to 700 meters. Testing will be carried out off the coast of Norway.

“Taking wind turbines to sea presents new opportunities. The wind is stronger and more consistent, areas are large and the challenges we are familiar with from onshore projects are fewer,” says Gjørv.

Another obvious benefit to the ocean turbine is the large machine will be out of sight, so no fighting over windmill placement. However, the StatoilHydro Hywind team faces a number of technical challenges including building electrical transmission cables to bring energy to shore, and the projected difficulties of turbine maintenance.

To build the Hywind the company entered into a development agreement with Siemens. They must figure out how the wind turbine will function optimally even in large waves. A three-meter high scale model has been tested successfully in SINTEF Marintek’s wave simulator. SINTEF, "The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research," headquartered in Trondheim, Norway, is the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia.

An important feature of the Hywind project is research and development since using offshore windmill technology as a major energy source is still a few years off. The pilot program’s goal is to reduce cost so floating wind power becomes economically competitive on the power market.