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UK & USA to reach agreement on floating wind turbines

London, 23 April 2012

Floating wind turbines are to be the initial focus of a new agreement between Britain and the United States this week as international talks convene in London to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies. 

Energy Ministers from 23 of the world’s leading economies will gather in London on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss accelerating the transition to clean energy technologies. 

The Clean Energy Ministerial will be co-chaired by UK Energy Secretary Edward Davey and US Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Alongside the talks, Ed Davey will sign a number of bilateral agreements with counterparts from other governments to work in collaboration over the coming years. 

The UK and US will agree to collaborate in the development of floating wind technology designed to generate power in deep waters currently off limits to conventional turbines but where the wind is much stronger.

Energy Secretary Edward Davey said: “Britain has more wind turbines installed around its shores than any other country in the world and our market is rated year after year as the most attractive market among investors. 

“Offshore wind is critical for the UK’s energy future and there is big interest around the world in what we’re doing.

“Floating wind turbines will allow us to exploit more of the our wind resource, potentially more cheaply. 

“Turbines will be able to locate in ever deeper waters where the wind is stronger but without the expense of foundations down to the seabed or having to undertake major repairs out at sea.

“The UK and US are both making funding available for this technology and we’re determined to work together to capitalise on this shared intent.”

Background

Floating wind technology - The UK benefits from a third of Europe’s offshore wind potential, has more installed  offshore wind than any other country, the biggest pipeline of projects and is rated year after year by Ernst & Young as the most attractive market among investors.

Exploiting this economically, particularly in deeper waters off the west of the country, will require significant technology developments to build large offshore wind arrays.  Much of the deeper waters between 60 and 100 metres are too deep for fixed structures but benefit from consistently higher wind speeds. 

Floating wind technologies could therefore open up new areas off the coast of the UK.  This will ultimately  increase the potential of this sector, particularly post 2020 as the available shallow water sites are developed,  and will help to meet our decarbonisation and energy security targets. 

Major repairs on floating wind platforms can also take place when the devices are towed back to dock which will also help to reduce costs.

In the UK, the Energy Technologies Institute is currently in the process of commissioning a £25m offshore wind floating system demonstrator. Participants chosen to take part in the project will be tasked with the objective of producing by 2016 an offshore wind turbine that can produce 5-7MW.

Selection of the organisation to deliver the project is ongoing and an announcement on who will be carrying out the project on behalf of the ETI is expected early next year.

The ETI is also currently investigating various sites that could host the demonstrator and has announced that it is working with WaveHub, 16 kilometres north east of St Ives off the Cornish coast to carry out a site feasibility study.

In the US, the Department of Energy have recently announced a $180m funding opportunity for up to four Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects in US waters – which potentially could include a floating wind demonstration.

A new Memorandum of Understanding  on ‘Collaboration in Energy Related Fields’ being agreed this week between the UK and US covers collaboration in areas such as power generation (including low carbon technologies to combat climate change), energy transmission and distribution and energy efficiency. As one of the first examples of work supporting that MOU the UK-US collaboration on floating wind will ensure that both countries align our resources to maximise the impact for both countries.  It will also enable the sharing of best practice and expertise.  Ultimately it is hoped that this approach will result in more cost effective, higher yield floating wind technologies being developed. 

Ends --


The UK is hosting the third Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM3) at Lancaster House in London on 25-26 April 2012. CEM3 is an international conference aimed at accelerating the transition to clean energy technologies.

The 11 main themes covered at the CEM3 will include: energy efficiency, appliances, buildings/industry, electric vehicles, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage, hydropower, solar, wind, energy access and smart grids. There is a special emphasis on clean energy entrepreneurs and encouraging women to enter the sector.

Energy Ministers from 23 countries will attend: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States.

Find out more about CEM3: www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/cem3/cem3.aspx