Recharge: Maine eyes Goldwind for offshore

By Richard A. Kessler and Brian Publicover 

Tuesday, May 21 2013

Goldwind’s 6MW direct-drive permanent magnet prototype wind turbine has drawn interest from a consortium developing floating platform technology for deployment in the Atlantic Ocean off the US state of Maine’s coast, Recharge learns.

The Chinese vendor could test the unit offshore in eastern China on a pilot basis either in the fourth quarter of this year or in first quarter 2014.

“It’s really promising technology. We’re interested in their tests,” says Elizabeth Viselli, communications director at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures & Composites Centre, which heads a 36-member public-private initiative that aims to establish the state as a national leader in deepwater offshore wind technology.

Last year, Goldwind’s US subsidiary became a research partner in that consortium.

The centre in December won up to $4m in funding from the US Energy Department to complete engineering, design and permitting for a 12MW demonstration project known as Aqua Ventus I. It was one of five offshore technology projects to get funding from among 70 applicants.

For Aqua Ventus I, the Centre-led group will utilize VolturnUS, a concrete and composite semi-submersible platform it developed that will support a 6MW wind turbine. Plans call for placing two VolturnUs floaters in state waters off Monhegan Island. Water depths there vary between 300 and 400-feet (91.4 to 121.9 metres). 

Late this year or in early 2014, DOE will select up to three of these projects for follow-on phases that focus on siting, construction and installation, and aim to achieve commercial operation by 2017. These projects will receive up to $47m each over four years, subject to Congressional appropriations.

The Maine centre on 31 May will launch a 1:8-scale model of VolturnUS in 100-feet of water near the coast to gather data to de-risk the concept. The Centre believes VolturnUS has exciting commercial possibilities and has applied to patent the technology, which is pending, according to Viselli.

She says for Aqua Ventus I, “Goldwind will help us with research and development on how the turbine interacts with the platform. They understand turbines a lot better than we do.”

Viselli adds that it is too early to tell how deep a partnership with Goldwind could become. She emphasizes there is no agreement with the company to supply the turbines for the Aqua Ventus project.

Goldwind spokesman Colin Mahoney told Recharge in a statement: “We have been in discussions with the University of Maine to serve as an R&D partner on its Offshore Floating Platform Wind Project. We are thrilled to play a role on this project given our experience with the offshore deployment of our Permanent Magnet Direct-Drive turbines.

“Because Goldwind’s PMDD turbines eliminate the need for a gearbox and the associated maintenance needs of a gearbox, they are ideally suited for the harsh environs of off shore deployment.  While this partnership is in its very early stages, we are eager to work with UMaine on this critically important research project.”

Should Goldwind get the demonstration project supply contract, it could have an edge for a much larger prize: the Centre’s proposed 500MW Aqua Ventus II project next decade in federal waters off Maine.

Goldwind is the second Chinese vendor interested in the US offshore wind market. XEMC-Darwind will supply five 5MW machines for Fishermen’s Energy’s demonstration project in state waters off New Jersey.

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