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BLUETEC TIDAL PLATFORM GETS READY FOR THE NEXT STEP

Allard van Hoeken
Head of New Energy
Bluewater Energy Services

It’s April 2015. The eyes of the world turn to Den Helder, the Netherlands, where the first BlueTEC Tidal Energy Platform is launched. Headed by Bluewater Energy Services, the project represents a collaborative effort between 12 partner organisations – each one bringing their specialist expertise to the table. The aim of the project? To test the various structures and technologies. Less than a year down the line, the initial findings are positive. Damen Offshore Wind Journal met with Bluewater’s Head of New Energy Allard van Hoeken to find out more.

How has BlueTEC’s start-up phase progressed since we last spoke? Very well. First of all, getting the platform from the drawing board to grid-connectedreality in 6 months is amazing. The platform is producing clean electricity – the loads are lower than expected and the stability is better than expected. On top of that, the platform has withstood two large storms since deployment already without any problems.

The Texel turbine is a demonstrator platform. What lessons has it taught you? As expected, the main challenges involved the turbine and the large amount of monitoring equipment that we have in place – it is also a floating R&D lab. We use the data that we collect to match the reality with the simulations. This will create the basis for the future. These sensors take some time to get hooked up and running smoothly. However, it has been very easy to solve the issues we came across. We can get to the platform on a small boat, open the watertight door and enter the electronics room, fix and replace something and be back on land an hour later.

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What is important when working with so many partner organisations? We are a group of great, strong and motivated partners. There is positive energy at all of the many partner meetings – each company just really made it happen. It has been a great collaborative experience, everyone trying to do their best to make it succeed – and so it has!

How do you envision the Texel project to move ahead? We will soon install the Tocardo T2 turbine, which will double the platform’s capacity. A few months after that we are installing a second T2 turbine. As of then the platform will carry two turbines simultaneously. This twin turbine setup will double the capacity once again to reach the 400-500 kW mark. This will really kick start utility-scale tidal farms.

And how do you see the tidal energy sector developing globally? Learning a lesson from offshore wind, easy offshore access is essential – so successful tidal installations will be floating. I think that the industry will start off using small to mid-sized units like our 500 kW platforms. These are ideal for remote locations like Indonesian and Pacific islands and for initial farm developments. Once such a site is tested and proven, further investment will follow to expand to utility-scale farms, using the larger 2 MW versions in countries like Canada, France and the UK. Here in the Netherlands, we could extend the current set up into a small array.

What are the key points in the start-up phase? It’s crucial to start with existing technology, low investment and a small grid. This is learning with low costs and growing with low risks. Complex concepts take a long time and a lot of money. Everybody can make a drawing. Everybody can fabricate a machine and bring it to the quayside. But to get it out in the sea and have it working – that is where the ‘devil in the detail’ comes out. In our case, there was none. We accelerated where most projects struggle – in the offshore installation, start-up and commissioning phases.

Would you say that the technology is now proven? Absolutely. It works well and has proven to be very reliable. The BlueTEC platform demonstrates that this is an inherently sound concept. Our clients and potential buyers see this when they come on board.