A consortium headed by floating wind pioneer Principle Power has been awarded a $3.6m grant by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to sea-trial new digital twinning software tailored for deepwater offshore wind operations.

The programme, known as DigiFloat, will be put through its paces modeling a high-fidelity numerical representation of the WindFloat Atlantic (WFA) project – a three-unit array about to installed by EDP-led development group WindPlus in the Portuguese Atlantic.

“We are at the beginning of an exciting new era for floating wind and proud to be part of a team that is developing digital innovations that will help accelerate the deployment of the technology around the world,” said Principle Power CEO João Metelo.

“This grant will be instrumental in ensuring that the game-changing WindFloat technology can benefit from innovations that achieve greater efficiency and design optimisation, which will make it increasingly competitive in terms of cost and performance.”

Funding for the project consortium – hich along with Principle Power, includes Aselos, the American Bureau of Shipping, the University of Washington-Applied Physics Laboratory, the University of California Berkeley, US Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, and EDP – comes from the Aerodynamic Turbines Lighter and Afloat with Nautical Technologies and Integrated Servo-control (Atlantis) research programme.

Sam Kanner, R&D Lead at Principle Power and principal investigator on DigiFloat, said: “Insights from the digital twin model we build and validate will give designers, operators, and other stakeholders greater understanding into WFA’s performance and operation, leading to less downtime, lower operational costs and better predictive capabilities.

“Using the software on a full-scale floating offshore wind turbine in a dynamic, offshore environment enables us to create superior, next-generation designs by closing the design feedback loop on a real-world project.”

Thomas Leurent, CEO of Akselos, stated: “This is an important step in making floating wind feasible all over the world, as we work towards achieving a low carbon economy. Floating offshore wind will play a critical role in scaling up the energy transition, and this ground breaking project will ultimately lower the levelised cost of energy for consumers.”

The DOE launched Atlantis to develop “radically new” floating wind units by optimising their rotor-area-to-total-weight ratio while boosting turbine generation efficiency, as well as building next-generation computer tools to streamline floating turbine design, while collecting real-time data from full and laboratory-scale experiments to validate the designs.

As well as WFA, Principle Power’s WindFloat platform concept – a three-column, steel semisubmersible concept with the turbine mounted on one corner –is currently in the frame for large-scale projects in all major maritime regions around the world, including being employed on one of four pilots off France heading for switch-on in 2020/21, as well as for what could be the first US floating development , in the Pacific Ocean off California.

The original WindFloat prototype, WF1, which operated in the Portuguese Atlantic from 2011-2016 under a “full life-cycle” prototype project , was brought back into service this year for Scotland’s Kincardine array, which will use another five of the larger versions of the platform – near-identical in design to the WFA units – for the full 50MW development now moving ahead off in the North Sea off Aberdeen.

· Update adds Askeolos CEO Thomas Leurent quote