Offshore wind farms are efficient producers of energy, but the cost of installation and maintenance can deter their development.
Marine wind farms in waters that are deeper than 60m cannot be directly anchored to the seabed, making it necessary to used expensive mooring, anchoring and floating structures.
A new European project called FLOTANT, which kicked off in April 2019, and will run for 36 months, now aims to develop a solution for installing ocean wind farms in water depths of 100 to 600m, with installation and maintenance costs that are 55% to 60% lower than at present.
The project is focussing on improving the buoyancy of the wind turbines and to that end, a plastic-concrete hybrid system has been developed, comprising materials that are relatively lightweight and are resistant to the marine environment.
Spain-based plastics technology centre AIMPLAS is taking part in the project and will develop and optimize the anchoring, wiring and floatation system through the development of thermoplastic and thermoset materials with antifouling and antibite properties. An anchoring system made of high-performance polymers that will reduce platform movements is being developed consisting of a plastic-concrete hybrid floating system, dynamic lightweight wiring and a high- performance power export system. This solution will make it possible to install wind turbines of more than 10 MW.
Three prototypes are currently being tested in three different environments: dynamic testing equipment is being used to test the marine components in the anchoring and power export systems; a prototype of the entire system has been installed in a tank that simulates marine conditions; and testing of the new polymeric materials is being performed under real marine conditions in the Port of Taliarte (Gran Canaria).
The result is expected to reduce the cost of producing this type of energy from €107 per MWh in 2018 to €85-€95 per MWh by 2030.