UK plans world's largest open access test facility for offshore wind turbines
16th February 2010
The Energies Technologies Institute announced today that it plans to open the world’s largest open access indoor test facility for offshore wind turbines in the north east.
The test rig is being designed to allow the whole wind turbine
nacelle – the structure that houses all the generating components, such as the gearbox and drive train – to be tested onshore and indoors.The Energy Technologies Institute
(ETI) – which is a UK company formed by global industrial groups including BP, EDF Energy and Shell, and the UK Government – believes the new facility will be groundbreaking both in terms of the quantity and the quality of the testing it will allow.
The idea is to be able to demonstrate the reliability and performance of new technologies early on in the development process and reduce the technical and commercial risks of mass production and deployment of large multi-megawatt wind turbines offshore.
A spokesperson explained: “At the moment there are some facilities that exist around the world that individual companies can use but they don’t tend to be at the capacity levels that this will be and they are not open access.
“What tends to happen is that one company will use them and will book them out for however long they need. The idea behind this one is that – with all the extra offshore wind going on at the moment, especially around Round Three licences [under the Crown Estate’s programme] announced recently – this will make more testing available to more companies.”
The ETI has asked two companies, Converteam and HORIBA Instruments, to deliver competing designs for the test rig by the end of May. It is anticipated that one of these two will then be chosen to procure, build and commission the test rig and have it operational by the end of 2011.
Offshore wind turbine test facility to be built at Narec
It is expected that the rig will be built at the Narec (New and Renewable Energy Centre) based in Blyth, Northumberland and Regional Development Agency One North East has committed to investing £10 million in developing the building and infrastructure to support it.
At the end of last year One North East, along with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Energy and Climate Change announced £15 million of funding for Narec to test wind turbine blades of up to 100 metres in length.
Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and and Innovation, said today the new facility would “complement” this and other projects already underway.
“Offshore wind provides a tremendous opportunity for UK businesses,” he said. “It’s a new business area, requiring new technology – the turbines needed for the offshore wind market are not yet produced anywhere on a commercial scale.
“Testing is key to manufacturers and today’s announcement is further proof of the UK’s commitment to providing access to world-leading facilities.”
The ETI spokesperson confirmed that, in parallel with the development of the design of the rig, discussions are taking place with its potential users.
“We are working with a number of potential customers during the design period (a) to make sure it meets their requirements and (b) to ensure that this is a costed plan with committed customers,” he said.
He was not able to confirm at this stage who these potential customers might be.