Marine renewables R&D hub the European Marine Energy Centre in northern Scotland has finalised design for a 100MW floating wind laboratory.

EMEC, which has hosted a wider range of pioneering wave and tidal power devices at its facility in the Orkeneys in the last decade, envisions a six-berth site 20km offshore for as large as 20MW capacity units, moored in water depths of 80-95 meters.

Located further out to sea from the centre’s Billia Croo wave test site, prototypes anchored here would be run on windspeeds of a rich 10 metres-plus per second. But the technologies would also have to weather North Sea conditions including lashing Nordic rains and very large waves, comparable with metocean conditions on current high-profile leasing rounds off Scotland and Wales.

“Floating wind is still in relative infancy with limited experience globally of deploying and operating technologies in high energy conditions. These new demonstration site will provide developers with a highly comparable testing ground to proposed project locations prior to large-scale roll out,” said EMEC managing director Neil Kermode.

The EMEC site has been purposed-designed for developers to de-risk a range of floating wind technologies, putting turbines, hulls, moorings and other components to the test “in an energetic offshore environment”.

“This will enable performance to be refined on a wide range of floating wind technologies prior to commercial scale-up and build-out… by satisfying technical due diligence requirements and make financing easier and cheaper,” said EMEC.

“Floating wind will have a large role to play in our future energy mix so… we are looking at how we can use our existing testing infrastructure for floating wind subsystem testing, as well as developing a new test site to enable full-scale demonstrations ahead of commercial deployments around Scotland,” said Kermode.

He added that development of the demonstrator site plan followed “a stream of requests” from developers seeking a commercialise technologies, and so felt “like the natural next step in the evolution of EMEC”.

“For Scotland to be ready for ScotWind [Scotland’s 25GW leasing round awarded earlier this year], we need to be testing these technologies and developing our supply chains now.”

Four of the six berths will be grid-connected, with the other reserved for “alternative applications” such as green hydrogen generation.

The centre will also become home to a training facility run Xodus called X-Academy. Managing director Peter Tipler said : “EMEC’s ambition to create a floating wind test site has been a great innovation project for Xodus to support and will be key to de-risking the sector for decades to come.

“There’s a huge opportunity here for Orkney to capitalise on the ScotWind developments and become a base for supply chain and assembly.”

Among the pioneering marine renewables technologies put through their paces for commercialisation field-proof at EMEC recently are Orbital’s O2 ‘ocean-riding’ tidal power concept – a 2MW version of which was switched on last year – and Mocean's Blue X wave energy prototype.