BlueWeek 2015: collaboration is critical for economically viable offshore energy

Published: 28 April 2015

The Dutch Energy Agreement can be successful only if industry, the government and researchers active in the field of offshore wind energy and energy production from water work together. The Marine Renewable Energy Symposium at Deltares made that clear. The Energy Agreement requires 16% of Dutch energy to be sustainable by 2023. Without offshore wind farms and tidal flow plants, this goal cannot be achieved. Over 200 experts in offshore wind energy and energy from waves and tides met in Delft to identify the most promising initiatives. Major advances can still be made, particularly in the areas of installation, logistics and maintenance, to make sustainable energy from the sea more profitable faster.

Acting on the principle ‘dare to share knowledge’, Deltares teamed up with MARIN and TKI Wind op Zee to bring together representatives from industry, government and science at the BlueWeek 2015. There were presentations sharing the latest news about innovations in offshore energy production, for example in the fields of foundation techniques and scour protection. In addition to knowledge sharing, there were plenty of opportunities to discuss new joint ventures ranging from fundamental research to the marketing of innovations.

Research required

In recent years, major advances have been made in the technology for offshore wind energy and tidal energy. But it is precisely that progress that has thrown up new, fundamental, research issues, was the argument put forward by, among others, the European Academy of Wind Energy. For example, rotor blades are getting larger and larger all the time and the weight is becoming a construction risk. Studies of new, safe, designs and perhaps even entirely new types of material will be essential to maintain progress in commercially viable offshore wind energy. Superconducting turbines also have potential. The establishment of public-private consortiums is the only way of tackling these challenges. In that respect, the focus will increasingly be on international relationships, something that was also reflected in the international character of BlueWeek 2015. TKI Wind op Zee, a part of the Top Sector policy of the Dutch government, is emphatically looking outside its own borders to prevent research being duplicated. The Carbon Trust from the United Kingdom is working on the establishment of collaboration between all the countries surrounding the North Sea and it is discussing this initiative with, among others, TKI Wind op Zee. In addition, there was emphatic demand from the sector to look at financing for up-scaling and demonstration projects.

Innovative installations

A range of consortiums are also giving practical demonstrations of how useful collaboration can be. For example, a consortium involving, among others, Siemens has just started a trial at the Westermeerwind wind farm, conducting on-site measurements of monopile foundations. The first step was to map out the bed surface and measurements are now being conducted looking at the installation and loading of the monopile. The data will be used to make improvements to the model for calculating the interaction between the bed and the installation. Tennet is working on five 700-MW AC platforms in the North Sea. This is the first time that it has been possible to build AC platforms of this size. The approach to installation is based on comparable, larger AC/DC platforms in Germany, but development focused on making things more cost-efficient, for example by studying a smaller platform with fewer legs. The first platform will be operational in 2019. A unique trial is also underway in Cuxhaven in Germany. RWE is working with a number of partners on studies of the differences between piles that are driven in the traditional way and piles positioned using an innovative vibrating pile-driving installation. The difference is spectacular: the innovative approach takes three minutes instead of half an hour and it is much quieter. The study is now looking at areas that include the load on the piles.

Electricity from waves and tides

Producing electricity using tides and waves is technology with major potential but actual implementation worldwide is still in its infancy. A range of groundbreaking projects were presented at BlueWeek. For example, practical trials are being conducted for the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon in the Deltares test facilities. Swansea Bay will be home to a tidal power plant with 16 turbines and 8 sluices, which will ultimately meet 8% of Great Britain’s power requirements. A unique feature is that the turbines work during both ebb and flood tides, and therefore generate electricity four times a day. Models and practical trials are now being used to establish how the wave pattern affects yields with the aim of optimising the design. Tidal power is also being studied in the Netherlands. For example, a pre-competitive market consultation showed that a tidal power plant in the Brouwersdam is a possible option. This fits in with the improvements to water quality required in the Grevelingen Lake.

Match-making

The cases and technology that were presented inspired those attending to take concrete steps to achieve the objectives in the Dutch Energy Agreement. At the Marine Renewable Energy Symposium, Deltares organised a range of match-making activities for the purposes of establishing new joint ventures and Joint Industry Projects (JIPs). In addition, during the other two days of BlueWeek 2015, participants from approximately twenty other JIPs and consortiums met to discuss progress on their projects. The results will undoubtedly be discussed at BlueWeek 2016.

BlueWeek matchmaking

 Natural Propulsion Seminar

During the Natural Propulsion seminar of MARIN an overview of the current activities, innovations and research for the use of renewable energy in the maritime transport was presented.The aim of this meeting was to gather researchers, shipyards, ship designers, ship operators and ship owners, in order to create enough synergy and confidence to go ahead with such technology. BlueWeek Marin