Acciona heads a consortium to do strategic research into marine energy sources

The objective is to develop deepwater structures that can exploit the energy from wind power, wave, tidal and ocean current energy sources.

Acciona Energy heads a European R&D consortium of 17 companies, universities and technology centers from 12 countries with the aim of establishing a technological basis to ensure the viable and competitive integration – on a single deepwater production platform – of a number of marine renewable energies such as wind energy, wave, tidal and ocean currents.

The project, named MARINA Platform (Marine Renewable Integrated Application Platform), has a total budget of 12.8 million euros. It is co-financed by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme (7FP) for Research with a subsidy of 8.7 million euros.

From now until June 2014 (the expected completion date of the project) the consortium created around MARINA will analyze a wide range of aspects with a view to exploiting the predicted offshore wind power boom in order to integrate this energy source with other marine renewable technologies (wave and currents) on platforms located in deep water (i.e. above 40 meters) several miles off the coast.

This will mean that the useable renewable energy capacity in the sea will increase considerably and, at the same time, synergies will be generated among the different technologies to lower costs and help them to become economically viable.
An expert and multidisciplinary paneuropean consortium

The MARINA project will be performed by a multi-disciplinary consortium of organizations that are specialized in the different technologies involved, such as wind power, marine energy, offshore oil and gas rigs, oceanography, meteorology and marine biology.

The group’s profile includes leading industries in their respective fields, universities and technology centers. Among the first, headed by Acciona, is DONG Energy (Denmark) – the first offshore wind power operator in the world – and Statoil (Norway), a leader in prospecting for oil and gas in deep water and the owner of the only floating wind turbine installed and operating to date. Other industry participants include Technip (France), Progeco (Italy), Corrosion & Water Control (Netherlands), Bureau Veritas Nederland (Netherlands) and 1-Tech (Belgium).

The industrial members are matched by its six academic centers: NTNU (Norway), which has the scientific lead based on its deep knowledge of offshore structures as well as renewable ocean energies, the University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom), University College Cork (Ireland), the École Central de Nantes (France), the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece), and the University do Algarve (Portugal).

Three other members are applied technology centers: Tecnalia Robotiker (Spain), Riso DTU (Denmark), and Fraunhofer IWES (Germany). Fraunhofer IWES is also the coordinator of an EU-wide Coordination Action supported by FP7 energy from the same Call which addresses the issue of multi-purpose offshore renewable energy production platforms as a networking project. This action, ORECCA, will be run in parallel with the MARINA R&D project during its first year and a half and close interaction between the two projects will be secured in order to maximize the overall European added value.

The total research team mobilized by the project corresponds to more than 30 full-time researchers in 12 European countries dedicated to the project over the next four and a half years. Acciona’s ability to lead together such a top-level consortium around the project underlines its international reputation in the field of technological development in marine wind power, and as a leading company in Spain with a firm commitment to these technologies.

A strategic project for Europe

The MARINA project has a clear strategic interest for the European Union, supporting its lead in the exploitation of renewables at world level and its aims to cover at least 20% of its end-user energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. At the same time, being a long-term R&D project, MARINA aims to contribute to the longer term European policy objectives beyond 2020, and specifically to the very ambitious aims of creating a carbon-free EU electricity sector by 2050.

Achieving these objectives means that wind power will have to be extensively implemented, both on land and at sea. Offshore wind power will see stronger growth over the next decades as a basic pillar of the European strategy both in the near and longer terms. This will be helped by the contributions and synergies that could exist in the integration of marine wind power together with other marine energy conversion technologies (waves and marine and tidal currents), and in which MARINA will conduct strategic research.

Europe is currently the world leader in offshore wind power, with 2,056 MW installed in 38 wind parks and a total of 828 wind turbines. The United Kingdom and Denmark head the sector at present, with share of 44% and 30% respectively, while Spain has not installed any marine wind parks to date.

The European offshore wind power sector is expected to develop spectacularly. There are already 3,500 MW under construction and a further 16,000 MW have been authorized. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) forecasts that Europe will have 400,000 MW of wind power capacity installed in 2030 (72,000 MW at present), covering around 30% of electricity consumption of the EU. Half of this figure will be produced in offshore wind parks, with an estimated total capacity of around 150,000 MW by 2030.

The project highlights the tremendous potential for the implementation of deepwater offshore renewable energy parks, if competitive cost levels can be achieved. The “standard” offshore wind parks of this type are envisaged to have a capacity of more than 1,000 MW, and a starting assumption for the MARINA project is that a significant part of the capacity could be obtained by mobilizing the immense wave and marine current energy resources of Europe synergistically with wind. For this to be realized, however, significant research will be needed, which the MARINA project is the first to attempt systematically and on a significant scale.