UK to install offshore two-bladers

Britain is set to install flagship two-bladed wind turbines off its coast by 2016 following finalisation of a deal between UK seabed landlord the Crown Estate and Dutch technology developer 2-B Energy.

The lease, signed by 2-B subsidiary Forthwith, will see a pair of the 6MW downwind machines installed on jackets in the waters off Methil, Scotland, as part of a demonstration project.

"In order to fully unlock the potential of offshore wind over the long-term, it is vital that opportunities are made available to test and demonstrate innovative and emerging technology platforms to bring down costs and secure the UK's position as a global leader in offshore wind technology," says Crown Estate head of offshore wind Huub den Rooijen.

In March, 2-B Energy set the seal on an investment package of about €26.5m from a group that includes a bank, venture capitalists and an oil company, to drive forward development of its two-bladed concept, which features a 140-metre-diameter rotor, steel tower and integrated lattice structure jacket.

The company plans to erect a full-scale onshore prototype of the turbine in the Netherlands ahead of the two Methil machines.

"We hope that through this offshore development and demonstration step, and following the completion of our first on-shore demonstrator in early 2015, to be able to validate significant cost reductions in future offshore wind deployment," says 2-B Energy chief operating officer Mikael Jakobsson.

The Methil demonstration units will be at the heart of a programme aimed at cutting as much as 35% out of the cost of offshore wind, by integrating wind turbine technology with "innovations in grid and access systems, the installation process and a new operational strategy."

2-B Energy's turbine is among half a dozen two-bladed designs now in advanced stages of development, with analysts predicting they could carve a 2GW slice of the expected 10GW annual offshore market by 2020.

Chinese wind group Ming Yang recently announced a heads of agreement with Norway's Marin Energi Testcenter to erect a 6MW prototype from German outfit Aerodyn off the coast of the Scandanavian country.

The most hopeful calculations suggest two-bladers could flow power to the grid for under £60 ($100) per MWh.

That is far below the UK government’s 2020 target of £100/MWh, and cheaper than the €95 (£77) per MWh expected by turbine giant Siemens in 2025.

Currently, traditional three-bladed offshore turbines are producing at around £130/MWh.