Norwegian tech firm receives funding to develop new innovative wind turbine

Norway’s state-owned energy efficiency and new renewable energy body, Enova, has pledged €17.1 million to help the Bergen-based company Sway AS demonstrate a new wind turbine prototype. The project represents a significant potential reduction in the cost of generating offshore wind power.

Enova, which is owned by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and was established to take a leading role in promoting environmentally friendly restructuring of energy consumption and energy generation in Norway, has earmarked €17.1 million in funding for Sway, a company established in 2001 to develop new offshore wind innovations.

The funding from Enova will contribute to the construction of a 10-MW wind turbine in Øygarden in Hordaland County (Norway), where the new technology will be tested on land over the next two years. The wind turbine will be the world's largest of its kind, with a rotor diameter of 145 metres.

In cooperation with the Norwegian technology firm Smartmotor AS, Sway has developed the concept with a view towards reducing turbine weight and the number of moving parts, as well as the use of a gearless generator system. Overall, the concept will result in higher energy generation for offshore wind power, and thus also lower operating costs. As many as 35-40 engineers have taken part in the work to develop the concept that will now undergo testing.

"Enova is dedicated to helping promote projects that can bring us closer to achieving the goal of commercial generation of offshore wind power. We regard this specific project as being very exciting. It represents a considerable ramping up of current technology, in which diverse Norwegian expert communities have cooperated to develop a totally new wind turbine design," says Nils Kristian Nakstad, Enova's executive director.

Funding for the project has been provided under Enova's support program Renewable marine power generation, launched in February 2009. "There are many smart concepts aimed at exploiting the renewable energy potential along the coast and offshore. The goal of the program is to demonstrate and introduce innovative new energy solutions to the market by showcasing projects which can help qualify the technology in the form of energy results and operational experience," says Nils Kristian Nakstad. In 2009, funding was provided for two tidal power projects under this program.

“The Sway technology will open up large new areas worldwide for harvesting wind energy,” says its developers. “The medium to long term market potential is significant, comprising both electrification of offshore oil & gas installations and export to the onshore electricity market”.

Wind power production can be more efficient in deep water locations due to the presence of consistently higher average wind speeds. At 50 km off the coast of Norway, where the water depth is typically between 100-300m, the power production from each wind turbine would be 20-30% higher than the same wind turbine located at the Horn's Reef installation situated some 15 km off the west coast of Denmark. This improvement is simply due to the greater and more consistent winds further offshore.

Electrification of oil and gas installations

According to Sway, its system is a viable solution for the electrification of oil and gas platforms with electricity production costs, including capital costs, well below the operational costs alone for the gas and diesel turbines used currently in the offshore industry. A detailed case study for the integration of wind power to an oil platform off the coast of Norway was successfully completed in 2004. The study concludes that it is both technically and economically feasible to integrate wind power with the existing gas and diesel generators on the offshore oil & gas platforms. The benefits of this integration would be savings in the form of lower electricity costs and reduced emissions.

"Enova's support can help bring Norwegian technology to the global forefront when it comes to wind turbines that float or rest on the seabed," says a very pleased Eystein Borgen, managing director and founder of SWAY, who continues: "The funding will enable us to maintain the necessary rapid progression, as well as lay the foundation for total project financing. This is a huge inspiration for everyone involved in the project," he adds.

Sway believes its technology has the potential to provide Norway and several other countries (including USA, Japan, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy) economical access to an unlimited energy source with no pollution and minimal environmental controversy.

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