Offshore wind turbines could be sited in deeper water, closer to the shore off the UK coast to take advantage of stronger, more consistent wind speeds, according to the Energy Technologies Institute.
Project Deepwater, a consortium led by Blue H with BAE Systems, the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS), EDF, Romax Technology, SLP Energy and PAFA Consulting Engineers, was launched by the ETI in January 2009.
It looked at the feasibility and costs of generating electricity using offshore wind turbines mounted on a floating, tension legged platform, in water between 70 and 300m deep.
Existing offshore wind turbines are usually mounted on fixed structures that are unsuitable for use in deeper water.
ETI chief executive Dr David Clarke said: "The traditional view is that the cost of offshore wind becomes increasingly more expensive as turbines are located in deeper water due to the additional costs of supporting traditional turbine structures.
"The cost of foundations does get more expensive as you go into deeper water but the wind speeds in much of the UK deep water are significantly stronger and more consistent which results in a more reliable and higher energy output. Over time, this more than outweighs the additional foundation costs and gives an overall lower cost of energy.
"This project has shown it may be possible to use floating turbines to exploit deeper water sites off the coast of the UK where the wind speeds are both higher and more consistent, to produce electricity at a similar cost to existing and proposed offshore sites where the turbines are in shallower water up to 40m deep.
"The assumption has always been the cost of installing turbines in deeper water would be too high to make economic sense but this project shows that it may be possible to open up new sites in deeper water, for example off the west coast of the UK. The project has also identified that there is huge global potential for floating wind turbines in deep water.
"While it is important that low carbon technologies are developed to help meet the UK Government's legally binding targets for reducing greenhouse gasses by 2020 and 2050 those technologies need to provide secure energy sources and crucially, need to be affordable."
Neal Bastick, CEO from Blue H said: "There are a number of advantages to locating wind farms in deeper water, particularly off the west coast of the UK. Wind speeds tend to be higher and the wind steadier which means the turbines should consistently capture more energy and help to bring the costs down.
"This project has shown exploiting the conditions of deeper water can be cost effective and those costs should come down further as development continues."
Project Deepwater was one of the ETI's first offshore wind projects along with Nova and Helm Wind which are due to produce their final conclusions later in the year.
The Nova project is looking at the potential benefits of using an innovative vertical axis turbine and Helm Wind is assessing the complete design system for an offshore wind turbine array, including installation, design, aerodynamics, electrical systems, control and maintenance.
The findings from all three projects will be analysed by the ETI before a decision is made on the next steps in the offshore wind programme, which could see an offshore wind demonstrator built using technologies and insights from all three projects.