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Four things to know about US offshore wind

: James Young, Chief Technology Officer, JDR. Technology used in European offshore wind has matured significantly over the past decade through a strong pipeline of projects. And now the offshore wind industry in the United States is emerging.

Last week, I spoke at the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum in Rhode Island about delivering commercial scale offshore wind projects through expertise and collaborative innovation. European experience will be extremely beneficial, including cost reduction initiatives for future US projects. However, not all solutions and technology proven in Europe will be directly transferrable. Why? Because US offshore wind is different:

1. Wind resources will be more turbulent and challenging

The US offers abundant wind resources but these could bring additional challenges to capture energy. For example, a recent paper by Cristina Archer et al in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres reported predominantly unstable offshore wind sources from Cape Wind offshore MetCast. The data indicates there is more variation in the amount and turbulence of offshore wind in the north-east of the US than has been encountered in European developments. US offshore technology and projects will need to accommodate this difference in wind consistency in both the planned installation and wind farm operational phase.

2. Offshore wind farms will need longer cable lengths and more storage

Last month the offshore wind industry media widely reported that this variability in offshore wind resource could result in changes to wind farm configurations, such as a further separation distance between turbines to minimise the impact of unstable atmospheric conditions. With larger separation distances between turbines there will be longer continuous cable lengths required than are used for conventional European developments. This has two implications: first, the longer length could require more factory flexible joints of the type that JDR has qualified to IEC standards, CIGRE TB 490 and Statoil TR3127. Second, the increased lengths would necessitate an increase in local cable storage such as on-shore baskets, carousels, turntables storage barges, floating carousels, cable gantry and lifting equipment. This will provide a substantial opportunity for local fabricators.

3. Seabed conditions will require new designs

Offshore wind sites in the US may have different seabed conditions in comparison to European developments. A larger proportion of subsea power cables operating off the US coast will need to be specifically designed for dynamic installation. Our new 66kv cable technology is ideal for these deep water, dynamic applications, especially if the US operators seek to use larger turbines for their developments.

4. The US could rapidly adopt floating offshore wind technology

With more than 40 per cent of the US’ available resource in deep water, US operators could adopt floating offshore wind technology rapidly. Still being developed in Europe, many of the underpinning technologies are already field-proven in oil and gas applications such as floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) and tension leg platforms (TLP). JDR has supplied dynamic power cables for these applications since 2003, and this trusted expertise will be beneficial as floating offshore wind enters commercialisation.

The US can build upon European experience, but it must be adaptable to the challenges and opportunities offered by US sites and locations. Experienced companies such as JDR, can offer the breadth and depth of technical expertise for whatever cable design, delivery logistics and installation challenges come to the fore. This means the learning curve for US offshore wind developers can be accelerated using qualified and proven technology – resulting in a significant reduction in risk and cost for development projects.