The National Renewable Energy Centre, Narec, has completed the installation of an offshore research and anemometry platform, three nautical miles off the coast of Blyth, Northumberland, next to the nearest shore array of the proposed 100MW capacity Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site.
The platform has been fitted with the latest technologies for measuring wind resource, observing marine conditions and collecting marine life data. At a height of 103m above sea level, its meteorological mast is amongst the tallest planned for offshore wind in the UK and the data collected will validate conditions on the proposed demonstration site for next generation turbines up to 8MW.
Andrew Mill, Chief Executive at Narec, said: “The installation represents a significant step forward in the realisation of the demonstration project, which has been designed to enable the commercialisation of the next generation of offshore wind turbines and their associated structures and electrical network equipment. This is the right time for manufacturers to provide assurance to investors in the sector by building up operating hours on their new designs in a realistic offshore environment.”
The platform has been designed for a 22-year life and its installation on a tripod structure at 37m water depth follows the approach being taken for the installation of wind turbines in deep waters. As well as providing a benchmark for tenants to monitor the performance of turbines on the Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site, it provides an open-access research facility to trial new technologies and processes intended to reduce the timescales and costs of the consenting process for offshore wind.
Andrew adds: “To reduce the future costs of up-scaling offshore wind requires innovation through the whole process of design, manufacture, installation and operation of wind farms, particularly as we go into deeper water farther out at sea. Our North Sea demonstration site provides a microcosm of the environment in which the majority of UK Round 3 Sites will be built out in. We are providing a shop window in water depths ranging between 35m and 58m for tenants to prove the performance and durability of larger prototypes and early-series production models.”
Tony Quinn, Operations Director at Narec, said: “The successful delivery and installation of the platform has required a concerted effort from all parties across the supply chain, including client team, stakeholders, professional advisors and contractors. Whilst this has necessitated a degree of commitment and dedication over and above the norm, it illustrates what can be achieved when a common aim is shared.”
The contract for the installation of the anemometry platform was awarded to SeaRoc earlier this year. The structure’s 53m-high tripod foundation, weighing 535 tonnes, 60-tonne platform and a 25-tonne meteorological mast were assembled offshore after being collected from the manufacturers on the Tyne. SeaRoc developed an installation solution that was focused on risk mitigation and, working together with its subcontractors, ensured it was completed with zero incidents and accidents and to a very compressed schedule.
Toby Mead, Operations Director at SeaRoc said that the importance of getting this installation correct and ensuring it was ready with an ‘operational status’ by the end of November 2012, has been a key driver for SeaRoc as the installation contractor: “I am very proud of my team and was happy to be dedicated to the project since June. We had responsibility to develop the complete works that would allow us to transport the foundation to quayside, full loadout and offshore installation of the foundation, three pin piles, grouting and full topside installation. This large tripod foundation had some non-standard solutions to enable its installation. Working with our subcontractors to ensure drilling and grouting operations would not delay our end date, we provided suitable redundancy including the very best in ROV solutions to successfully mitigate our risk where possible. To our knowledge it is the first time that the MPI Adventure, chartered by SeaRoc, has been involved in a tripod foundation structure installation and was operating in the deepest waters it has encountered to date.”
Eric Briar, Managing Director at SeaRoc said; “This has been a challenging project that has allowed us to further build our construction business and focus on niche installations that require a range of disciplines and top quality offshore project management experience. We embarked on this installation, on behalf of Narec, in May 2012 building on our past year of offshore installations in the wind, wave and tidal sectors and aim to continue to offer these services taking on larger projects and reducing risks for our clients. Our Operations Director, Toby Mead, and the full SeaRoc team, with contractors, have resolved a number of technical issues working very closely with Narec and their officers to hit targets and deadlines and we look forward to continuing to work with them in 2013
Narec submitted an application to the Marine Management Organisation in March 2012 for consent of the proposed 100MW capacity Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration Site and a decision is expected within 12 months. A competitive tendering process is also underway to select tenants for the proposed three arrays to demonstrate turbines up to 195m blade tip height. The private sector investment required to build out the site, if consented, will be circa £0.4 billion and the project aims to have the first turbines in operation in 2014.
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