Catalonia plans to build an offshore wind "test site"

The Catalan project to build the first Spanish offshore wind farm – for testing and research purposes – is taking shape. The most recent step was the signing on 26 October of an agreement between the main project sponsor, the Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC) and Vortex, a Catalan company dedicated to wind modelling services.

The aim of the collaboration agreement announced at the end of October by IREC is "to conduct studies to estimate the wind field, which will contribute to the development of the wind farm," explained the institute. The project, known as Zèfir Test Station, which will combine floating offshore turbines and others anchored to the seabed, will be located off the coast of Tarragona, as reported in Renewable Energy Magazine’s sister publication Energías Renovables in its April issue (ER 88) . IREC describes the facility as "an international research facility designed to test deep-water offshore wind turbines".

Under the agreement, Vortex will be responsible for making estimates of the normal and extreme wind conditions in the area of the test site (including turbulence and maximum gusts) using its numerical simulation model, which has been tested successfully in the Baltic and the North Sea. IREC can access Vortex’s remote systems through its own console "in order to make estimates in the study areas for constructing the platform".

According to the institute's Director, Antonio Martínez, the agreement "will boost the degree of certainty regarding the site’s wind potential". Martínez also seeks to emphasise that the Zèfir Test Station "will be a great opportunity to create new businesses for both small and large companies in a very new sector in which companies need to move forward". The project will be developed in two phases.

In the first phase, up to four wind turbines with a total capacity not exceeding 20 MW will be anchored to the seabed some 3.5 kilometres from the coast. IREC expects this phase to be operational in 2012. Then, in the second phase, up to eight floating wind turbines will be installed about 30 kilometres from the coast. The maximum power of the facility will not exceed 50 MW. This second phase is scheduled to be commissioned by 2014.

Gas Natural Fenosa

The agreement with Vortex comes on the heels of another agreement signed by IREC with Gas Natural Fenosa last September. Gas Natural Fenosa will work in collaboration with various universities and companies primarily on "collecting and evaluating data on the wind resource and the influence of waves and ocean currents”, said the company. It will also help to analyse environmental impacts, optimise the infrastructure on which wind turbines will be installed, and build interconnections, among other objectives.

IREC describes itself as "the leading energy research centre in Catalonia". Founded in 2008, it specialises in "research and technology development related to energy saving and efficiency and renewable energy". More specifically, IREC implements work programmes related to micro-networks, electric vehicles, energy storage, building efficiency, bioenergy and biofuels, and offshore wind energy.

Chaired by the Economy and Finance Minister, Antoni Castells, the institute’s patrons are the Catalan regional government through its Department of the Economy and Finance and Department of Innovation, Universities and Enterprise; the Spanish government through the Energy, Environment and Technology Research Centre (CIEMAT); the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE); the University of Barcelona; the Polytechnic of Catalonia; the Rovira i Virgili University; Endesa; Gas Natural Fenosa; the Repsol Foundation; Enagas; CLH; and Alstom. IREC has two locations: one in Barcelona and the other in Tarragona.

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