Researchers design and patent a low-cost offshore wind turbine
08 November 2015
The prototype, WindCrete, is a monolithic, cylindrical structure made from concrete and featuring a large float and a ballast base that makes it self-stabilising.
Researchers at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) have designed and patented a floating platform for offshore wind turbines that can reduce energy costs to 12 euro cents per kilowatt hour through a more efficient design and cheaper building materials.
Researchers Climent Molins and Alexis Campos, of the UPC’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, have developed a model of a floating structure for offshore wind turbines anchored at great sea depths that makes them competitive through cost savings in construction and maintenance.
The prototype, WindCrete, is a cylindrical structure with a large float and a ballast base that makes it self-stabilising. According to the researchers, the main innovations of this model compared to similar ones on the market are the seamless, monolithic structure and the use of concrete for its construction.
By using concrete instead of the more expensive steel, the construction cost is reduced by 60 percent. In addition, concrete is more resistant in the marine environment, so the structure has fewer maintenance requirements and a life of about 50 years. The absence of joints in the platform increases its durability against the effects of wind and sea and avoids the damage that normally appears in transition areas.
The WindCrete includes a 5MW wind turbine that can carry rotors of up to 15MW with a minimum increase in the cost, making it far more economical. The new system reduces the cost of wind energy to 12 cents per kWh hour - half the price per kWh of this type of energy (about 24 cents) in the Canary Islands, one of the regions where wind power is to be promoted.
Partially submerged offshore platforms of this type require a minimum depth: 90m in the case of WindCrete. However, there is no technical maximum depth at which they can be installed. In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, there are oil platforms of this type anchored at depths down to 2,300m.