The UK’s Energy Technologies Institute has kicked off what it describes as a “£1.1 billion initiative” for supporting energy R&D by announcing that its first tranche of funding (£20 million in total) will go to three projects in the offshore wind area and one addressing tidal stream technology. The projects are: Nova (Novel Offshore Vertical Axis): A UK-based consortium led by OTM Consulting and including representatives from three universities – Cranfield, Strathclyde and Sheffield – the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS) and SME Wind Power. Key sub-contractors include James Ingram Associates and QinetiQ. The project aims to assess the feasibility of a 5-10 MW vertical axis wind turbine employing a pair of giant “wings” – representing an integration of aerospace and marine engineering expertise. The vertical axis turbine concept – not generally considered feasible onshore – is said to offer potential benefits of ruggedness, stability and simpler maintenance access at sea, compared with conventional horizontal axis turbines.

Helm Wind: A UK-based consortium led by E.On Engineering and including representatives from Rolls-Royce, BP Alternative Energy and the University of Strathclyde. The project aims essentially to address the question: if we were starting from scratch to develop an offshore wind turbine (rather than adapt onshore designs, which is basically what has been done so far) what would it look like? The project will aim to overcome the issues facing today’s systems including turbine reliability and equipment access for maintenance.

Deepwater Turbine: A consortium led by Blue H Technologies of the Netherlands with representatives from UK groups including BAE Systems, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS), EDF Energy, Romax and SLP Energy. The project focuses on the design and feasibility of a 5 MW floating offshore wind turbine for deepwater deployment, in up to 300 m of water. A steel prototype is currently being tested in the Mediterranean, but the ETI funded project will focus on concrete construction to reduce costs.

ReDAPT (Reliable Data Acquisition Platform for Tidal): A UK-based consortium led by Rolls-Royce and including Tidal Generation Limited, Garrad Hassan, the University of Edinburgh, EDF Energy, E.On, Plymouth Marine Laboratories and the Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). The project aims to install and test a 1 MW tidal turbine at the EMEC, “delivering detailed environmental and performance information never before achieved at this scale in real sea conditions.”

After 18 months the three offshore wind projects “might be taken forward as one project”, said ETI chief executive, David Clarke. He also noted that the tidal stream project was “not just about putting a machine in the water” but was very much about collecting data, particularly environmental monitoring. The “machine is a relatively small part of the project’, he said.

The £20 million of funding has come from BP, Caterpillar, EDF Energy, E.On, Rolls-Royce and Shell, the six current private sector partners in ETI, which sees its role as “accelerating deployment of responses to the challenge of climate change.” The Institute, founded a year ago, also receives public funding.

Another set of offshore wind and marine projects to be funded by the ETI will be announced in six months and within the next nine months projects will be announced in the areas of transport, distributed energy and carbon capture and storage, with particular emphasis on storage.