Alstom wind turbines selected for offshore wind power in Virginia

Alstom announced that it is part of a team to receive a $47M grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) for phase II of the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP) led by Dominion Virginia Power. This next phase includes the completion of Front End Engineering Design (FEED), installation and testing of two Alstom Haliade 150-6 MW offshore wind turbines approximately 24 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.

The long-promised potential of offshore wind development along American coastlines took a step toward fruition on Wednesday as the Department of Energy pledged up to $47 million each to three projects it previously supported.

The grants are intended to help the projects, off the coasts of New Jersey, Oregon and Virginia, begin delivering electricity by 2017.

“Offshore wind offers a large, untapped energy resource for the United States that can create thousands of manufacturing, construction and supply chain jobs across the country and drive billions of dollars in local economic investment,” Ernest J. Moniz, the energy secretary, said in a statement.

The announcement represents the next phase of an Energy Department push to invigorate the industry by promoting innovation to help bring the cost of offshore wind power into line with that of conventional electricity production.

It came on the same day that Siemens said it would move the headquarters of its power-generating operations to the United States, not only to capitalize on the booming oil and gas industries but also with an eye on the potential growth of the offshore wind industry.

Far more advanced in Europe, the harnessing of offshore wind has yet to take root in the United States. It has been stymied by engineering, permitting and financing challenges, as well as political and community opposition in some corners.

Near the end of 2012, the Energy Department announced that it would make $4 million grants to seven demonstration projects, which were working through their engineering, site evaluation and planning stages.

Of those, Fishermen’s Energy, a venture to bring five turbines of five megawatts each to the waters near Atlantic City; Principle Power, which seeks to install five six-megawatt turbines off the coast of Coos Bay, Ore.; and Dominion Virginia Power, which hopes to put two six-megawatt turbines off the shores of Virginia Beach, won the larger grants.

The department is also working with two other projects — one planned for Maine near Monhegan Island and the other for Lake Erie — to further develop their technologies.

Getting an Energy Department grant to develop a new technology can be helpful but is certainly no guarantee of success. The department tries to pick the applications most likely to succeed, but sometimes it picks wrong.

This award strengthens the long-standing partnership between Dominion and Alstom and advances their common goals to improve the competitiveness of offshore wind in the United States. The team will explore innovative approaches to optimize turbine and balance of plant designs while addressing environmental conditions including hurricanes, transportation and installation strategies, and operations and maintenance (O&M) methodologies. The group, which includes the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), among others, is one of three teams selected to receive funding for phase two of the project.

“After successful and highly collaborative completion of the initial Front End Engineering Design we are looking forward to implementing this innovative and challenging project with our strategic partner Dominion and the other world class members of the team,” said Andy Geissbuehler, head of Alstom’s North American Wind business. “We are getting closer to the DOE goal of providing clean, affordable offshore wind energy to homes and businesses throughout the East Coast.”

Alstom’s Haliade 150-6 MW offshore wind turbine is engineered to achieve the goals and objectives outlined by VOWTAP. It’s 150-meter rotor contributes dramatically to reducing the cost of offshore wind power while the direct drive permanent magnet generator and the Alstom Pure Torque technology increase reliability, availability, and efficiency.

VOWTAP is one of several offshore wind R&D programs led by the DOE that Alstom is collaborating on. This month a team led by Alstom was awarded an additional $3.4M by the DOE for phase II of its program to develop, test and validate advanced control technologies and integrated sensors for offshore wind turbines.