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November 17, 2009

New designs set to slash offshore wind installation costs

Seven new foundation designs unveiled today have the potential to revolutionize the construction of offshore wind farms, reducing costs and overcoming engineering challenges currently facing the industry. They provide a glimpse of the future with radical concepts such as floating turbines anchored to the sea bed and spider-like tripod structures.

The new designs have been shortlisted in a global competition run by the U.K.'s Carbon Trust, which says they are set to accelerate the installation of thousands of wind turbines around Britain's coast by slashing the costs of construction and opening up deeper waters for development.

The Carbon Trust is an independent company up in 2001 by the U.K. Government to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy by working with organizations to reduce carbon emissions and develop commercial low carbon technologies.

Over 100 engineering companies from around the world submitted their ideas on how to build offshore wind turbines in severe weather conditions as far as 100 miles out to sea and in waters up to 60 m deep. Each design was rigorously assessed by an expert panel of judges.

Lower costs are vital if Britain is to install the 6,000 or so offshore wind turbines needed to meet its goal offshore wind meets a quarter of our electricity needs by 2020.  The current price tag is up to GBP 75 billion with deep water foundations accounting for 20 percent or more of a wind farm's total project costs. The goal of the new designs is to reduce the current costs of foundations by at least a quarter. This will save billions of pounds and enable the industry to deploy turbines in the much deeper and rougher sea conditions that will be experienced by the significantly larger offshore wind projects beginning in 2012 as part of the U.K.'s third round of licensing.

The seven shortlisted entrants and their designs are:

Gifford/BMT/Freyssinet (U.K. / France) -- Large concrete gravity base structure, transported to site by a submersible transport and installation barge e

Glosten Associates (U.S.A.) -- Floating wind turbine foundation based on Tension Leg Platform (TLP) technology, comprising a buoyant hull, tendons, and novel anchors

Suction Pile Technology / Wood Group (Netherlands/U.K.) -- Asymmetric suction bucket tripod foundation which can be transported from the quayside with the turbine already installed

 Keystone Engineering (U.S.A.) -- Inward battered guide structure --three supporting legs angled around a central pile in a twisted jacket approach

Offshore Wind Power Systems of Europe (USA) -- Titan -- Platform floated into position then its three legs are lowered to the sea floor, similar to a jack-up drilling rig

Ballast Nedam (Netherlands) -- Drilled concrete monopile

MBD Offshore (Denmark -- Suction bucket monopile, primary material is steel, using buoyant installation and delivery.

The seven designs were selected based on:

Manufacturing costs

Transport and installation costs

Potential for volume cost savings

Structural design and durability

Maintainability and turbine accessibility

Decommissioning and removal costs 

The designs will receive up to GBP 100,000 support for concept development, engineering analysis, commercial feasibility and technical assistance.  Of the shortlisted designs revealed today, up to three final winners will have their designs built and installed in large scale demonstration projects in 2010-2012 with funding from a consortium led by the Carbon Trust.

While the U.K. alone needs more than 6,000 new offshore foundations by 2020, the global number of offshore wind turbines will reach 15,000 or more: a global market for foundations worth up to GBP 2.5 billion a year.

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