September 28, 2010 / 11:06 PM / 7 years ago

UK launches contest to reduce offshore wind perils

* Wind turbines to be built in deeper waters

* Competition involves technology for 3 aspects of transfer

* A successful entry may get 100,000 pounds to develop idea

LONDON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Britain’s Carbon Trust has launched a global competition for a safer alternative to what it calls the “leap of faith” that workers have to make to transfer from service boats onto offshore wind turbines in rough seas.

Britain is planning to plant thousands of wind turbines at increasing distances from shore over the next two decades, and the publically funded body estimates the bill could be cut by 3 billion pounds ($4.8 billion) by finding a safer way to get workers and equipment onto the turbines in rough waters.

“As developers seek to get wind turbines into deeper waters, where the wind blows more wildly and the waves are stronger, it is vital that access and safety are maximised and costs minimised,” said Charles Hendry, UK energy minister.

“This competition will help turn ideas into reality, and successful innovators will see their solutions power the next phase in the UK’s offshore wind expansion,” he added in a statement.

So far, Britain’s offshore wind farms have huddled fairly close to shore, where sea conditions are relatively calm, allowing maintenance workers to get off boats and onto ladders running up the side of the turbines fairly safely. [ID:nLDE68M1OR]

But as the turbines are installed further out, conditions in future wind farms may be so rough that transfers may only be possible for less than half of the year, which could prevent essential maintenance.

The competition aims to increase turbine availability by 4 percent through the development of technologies to cope with difficult sea conditions with three-metre high waves.

Successful entries may get funding of up to 100,000 pounds each to support development of ideas.

UK offshore wind power costs have leapt over the past five years, and British consumers will have to foot the bill under a scheme to subsidise many low-carbon technologies until they become competitive. [ID:nLDE68M1OR] [ID:nLDE68K1JA]

“We must focus on improving the economics of offshore wind by reducing costs and increasing revenues,” said Benj Sykes, director of innovations at the Carbon Trust.

He added in an interview with Reuters that lower costs should lead to subsidy cuts and smaller bills for consumers.

The competition is for systems to transfer people and equipment from support boats to turbines, for vessels to transport staff and machinery from bases or mother vessels to turbines and for systems for launching and recovering the daughter vessels.

Reporting by Daniel Fineren, editing by Jane Baird

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