It offers low risk and zero emission electricity generation. While most developers concentrate on the development of turbines, leading Dutch offshore energy company Bluewater EnergyServices BV has developed an innovative solution to economically install and maintain these turbines in the ocean. This results in a large reduction of the highest cost items: offshore installation and maintenance, bringing down the total costs of tidal power significantly.
Tidal energy remains one of the largest untapped renewable energy sources with a significant market potential. This niche industry is in its early phase of development. Sites for installing the tidal devices are located globally.
Installation, operation and maintenance of a tidal power generation farm absorb most of the total costs of a tidal farm. Not the cost of failed components, but the cost of entire marine operations to diagnose and replace these parts under water can be extremely high. To counter this, Bluewater has designed a floating platform ‘Bluetec’ that provides easy access from the water surface, can hold multiple tidal turbines and is moored with anchor lines to the sea floor.
The Bluetec platform is a unified floating support structure which can hold any type of turbines in any waterdepth. It offers waterproof housing for vulnerable systems above the waterline unique in the tidal industry. Power cables are connected dry rather than under water, reducing risks and costs significantly. The Bluetec structure is much lighter than the conventional designs, requiring less tonnage steel per MW. The device itself is floating and therefore installation can be executed with widely available vessels, without the need for expensive floating cranes or jack-ups. Bluetec can hold multiple tidal turbines, resulting in less risk and high power reliability. This is another unique success factor: instead of forcing turbines to scale up to the enormous sizes that are now on the drawing boards, Bluetec works with today’s turbine technology. By bundling smaller turbines, each Bluetec unit reaches 1 MW, powering 1000 households. Even if one of the turbines would malfunction, the others keep operating and producing.
The key to low cost is easy access and easy handling. “The Bluetec design is unique because of its low installation, operation and maintenance costs”, says Allard van Hoeken, Manager New Energy at Bluewater. “Unlike the conventional designs which have the turbines located at the seabed, Bluetec offers a significant advantage by providing easy access to all the critical equipments which are located above the waterline. This means that there is no need for divers, submarine robots nor wet connectors, which results in safe and cost effective inspection, maintenance and repair activities.’’
The Bluetec concept lends itself very well for further cost reductions during scaling up. It can serve both small (1-5 MW) and large (80 – 120 MW) farms economically.
Bluewater is a maritime service provider with over 30 years of experience in the offshore oil and gas sector, providing reliable floating solutions. These systems are installed, operated and maintained in the oceans. This experience is key for developing reliable tidal energy solution. During every step in our design process, we anticipate how to maintain our systems at sea, in the most cost-effective way.