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New developments in wind technology

Offshore wind energy continues to grow more indispensable to Europe’s energy mix. According to WindEurope’s Financing and Investment Trends 2016 report, new asset financing for offshore wind power projects reached a record-breaking € 18.2 billion in offshore wind in 2016. This year, WindEurope and RenewableUK are joining forces to host Offshore Wind Energy 2017, the largest offshore wind conference and exhibition in the world. From 6 to 8 June participants at Offshore Wind Energy 2017 will have the opportunity to participate in an exhibition by over 400 exhibitors. The conference will focus on innovation and forward-thinking as the industry continues to develop itself as a more mainstream energy source.

One of the topics that gets more and more attention is floating offshore wind structures. In recent years, floating wind has gradually matured as a technology, progressing from being the subject of academic research, to a handful of full-scale, stand-alone prototype projects (Hywind in Scotland, Principle Power in Portugal and the FORWARD project in Japan), to the development of multiple pre-commercial arrays. Technological advances in floating wind will open up opportunities to exploit the abundant wind resource in deeper water sites where it is currently not possible to deploy fixed-bottom foundations, making this an important area of research for the offshore wind industry. The article on page 6, by Robert Proskovics and Gavin Smart from ORE Catapult, analyses the costs and risks of the three most common types of floating wind structure and compares them to those of a fixed-bottom monopile wind farm.

The article written by Ángela Angulo from international research and engineering solutions company TWI, focuses on digital twin technology. TWI has set its sights on harnessing digital twin technology to transform the process of monitoring and maintaining offshore wind turbines. The collective methodology of this work seeks to address each component of the wind turbine in turn, first determining potential problems that could arise (e.g. the blade developing cracks or the tower corroding), then subsequently developing new monitoring solutions to mitigate part failure. The application of digital twin technology seeks to build on this approach by replicating all the constituent components of the wind turbine into a single digital model, thereby enabling real-time monitoring of the turbine’s entire structural condition.

In this issue we also present you with a ‘new’ kind of turbine concept. The new concept is described on page 20 by Ton Bos from MegaWindForce. In this turbine the main shaft is replaced with a ring-shaped generator. One of the most severe challenges in designing a traditional horizontal axis wind turbine is optimising the blade joints to the rotor hub. With the growth of the size of turbine rotors, the driving torque at the blade root section increases more than linearly with the length of the blade (with the rotor radius cubed). When the same materials are used, the weight increases cubically with size, demanding heavier constructions to withstand forces. The low number of revolutions make it necessary for the nacelle to grow for direct drive generators or for heavy gearboxes to be introduced. By replacing the main shaft by a ring-shaped generator-support combination the disadvantages of classical upscaling are eliminated. MegaWindForce will install the first test turbine onshore in 2018, after which an extensive test programme will start. The offshore tests will start in 2023. We will keep you updated about the progress.

Enjoy reading,

Floris Siteur

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