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 February 21, 2012
Could floating wind turbines wash up at Wave Hub?

 Floating offshore wind turbines could become the latest residents at the Wave Hub testing centre off the coast of Cornwall if proposals to expand the cutting-edge facility pass a feasibility study.

The private-public Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has commissioned Wave Hub to investigate whether the site could accommodate designs put forward under its £25m offshore wind floating system demonstration project, which was launched in October with the goal of accelerating the development of innovative floating turbines.

The programme is designed to assess the viability of giant floating turbines, which according to a 2010 study could produce 2.5GW of capacity within 50km of the south-west coast alone. Supporters of the proposed turbine design argue that with offshore turbine foundations accounting for a large part of the construction costs floating turbines could reduce both the cost and the environmental impact of the UK's planned fleet of offshore turbines.

By 2016 the ETI aims to have a full-scale floating turbine ready for a two-year sea trial, which will need an area with wind speeds of up to 10 metres per second and water that is between 60 and 100 metres deep.

The group has now asked the company operating the Wave Hub test site to assess whether its grid connection 'socket' around 10 nautical miles off the north Cornish coast could support the turbine trial.

The facility forms the centrepiece of the government's first marine energy park, boasting four berths for testing wave energy devices, two of which have been reserved by Irish developers Ocean Energy Limited of Ireland and UK-US firm Ocean Power Technologies.

Dr David Clarke, chief executive of the ETI, said depending on survey results to be carried out in the summer, the wave energy companies could be joined by an ETI-backed offshore wind turbine prototype in four years' time.

"The ETI is seeking potential sites to host the demonstration project and we will be working with Wave Hub to see if it could be suitable for hosting the offshore wind floating platform," he confirmed in a statement.

"The concept for the floating platforms is to be able to access near-to-shore, high wind speed sites off the west coast of the UK, which would bring down the cost of generating electricity, so the Wave Hub site offers some interesting possibilities."