UK to build offshore wind database

Greater Gabbard is one of a quartet of UK offshore projects that came on line last year

Greater Gabbard developers RWE and SSE are among Sparta's backers

A major cost-reduction scheme focusing on boosting wind turbine reliability and output has been launched in the UK by the government-backed Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.

The Sparta (System Performance, Availability and Reliability Trend Analysis) project, kick-started by £850,000 ($1.4m) from ORE Catapult and the UK Crown Estate, will create a bank for “anonymised” offshore wind farm performance and maintenance information to help developers spot “operational improvements and cost reduction opportunities”.

The database, supported by developers Centrica, RWE, SSE, Statkraft and Statoil, will initially cover UK wind farms but is designed to be expanded to include international projects.

“Working in close collaboration with The Crown Estate and other key organisations in the offshore renewables sector will enable us to speed up the delivery, commercialisation and scalability of technology innovation,” says ORE Catapult innovation programmes director Chris Hill.

“Building on previous projects within the ORE Catapult, the Sparta project will, for the first time, produce benchmarking data that has real value to the industry and will contribute to reducing real costs.

“This will help to meet the challenges of harnessing low-carbon power from offshore wind by driving down costs and realising significant economic, social and environmental benefits.”

Equipment failures cost the UK offshore wind industry around £150m in 2012. A 0.1% industry-wide improvement in turbine availability against the 2012 offshore wind generated volume of 7.5TWh is calculated to equal an increase in income of £10m.

A pilot project will run until March 2015 after which a full-scale implementation of the Sparta reporting system is planned.

“With the largest base of operating turbines in the world, the UK offshore wind sector has an unrivalled knowledge base to draw on,” says the Crown Estate’s head of offshore wind, Huub den Rooijen.

“Sparta for the first time creates a way for industry to use this to its strategic advantage, providing access to a wealth of information that will enable operators to better understand the performance of their wind farms and where there might be opportunities for cost reduction.” 

Sparta,  set up last year by The Crown Estate and classification body DNV GL, was inspired by the offshore oil industry’s long established Offshore Reliability Database known as OREDA.

ORE Catapult will fund and manage Sparta with the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec).

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