Plans for a large demonstrator windfarm off the Dutch coast have strengthened the resolve of a group trying to establish such a facility near Aberdeen.
A consortium of industry and academic partners including German energy giant RWE and Dutch rival Eneco aims to develop the demonstrator offshore the Netherlands as part of a research and development programme on offshore wind technology.
The windfarm would comprise 20-60 multi-megawatt (MW) turbines situated 45 miles out to sea in water depths of 100-115 feet.
Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (Areg) and Swedish utility Vattenfall are confident an offshore wind-testing centre which forms part of plans for a windfarm off the north-east coast could open the door to tens of billions of pounds of investment.
Ian Todd, Areg’s renewables champion, described the Dutch project as an interesting development in the rapidly expanding offshore wind sector. He said: “It also underlines the need for a deployment centre and the demand among turbine manufacturers for test sites.”
The new development proposed for the Netherlands is not considered a major threat on this side of the North Sea, where the Aberdeen scheme is seen as having many advantages; not least the fact it is at a much more advanced stage.
Areg has a considerable head start, having already completed the necessary marine and wildlife impact studies.
Mr Todd said: “The Aberdeen project has been under development for four years and has been earmarked for a potential 40million euros (£35million) of EU funding through the Economic Recovery Plan.
“An application for those funds has been submitted and we will shortly be engaging in a formal, comprehensive consultation process with a view to applying for consent thereafter.
“There are few details on the Dutch scheme itself or how it will be funded but we firmly believe our project enjoys significant advantages, not least the availability of Aberdeen city and shire’s unrivalled offshore oil and gas supply-chain experience and expertise as well as a higher wind speed than is found on continental Europe.”
The Areg scheme has met resistance, particularly from Aberdeen Harbour Board, but it has already been scaled down substantially to allay fears about marine safety and helicopter operations.
Mr Todd said: “The Aberdeen deployment centre has the potential to ensure that Scotland and indeed the UK leads the way in offshore wind and provides Aberdeen city and shire with a major, concrete renewable-energy project that will help the region position itself as a global energy hub for the long term.”
The Dutch scheme is earmarked for an area far off the coast where there is room to instal a large proportion of the turbines for generating an estimated 6,000MW, enough to meet the annual electricity needs of 100,000 to 300,000 households. Its backers hope that by incorporating new technologies their project will encourage innovation and speed up the development of offshore wind power in the Netherlands.
Unveiling details as the plans were presented to Dutch economic affairs minister Maria van der Hoeven, RWE’s offshore wind unit said: “Companies in the Netherlands can acquire a sizeable share in this new fast growing European market for offshore wind energy. There are currently no windfarms operating at this depth and distance from the coast anywhere in the world.”