Week of October 13, 2003
Snapshot from the Field
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$1.6B in the Scottish Breeze:
by JACK LYNE, Site Selection Executive Editor
ABERDEEN, Scotland Talisman Energy (www.talisman-energy.com) has unfurled plans for US$1.6 billion's worth of wind on the water: The Canadian company has announced its design for the world's largest offshore wind farm. Slated to be built off Scotland's north coast, the Beatrice Wind Farm Project would fix 120 wind turbines, each 297 feet (90 meters) tall, on the bed of the North Sea.
That offshore fleet of tall turbines represents "what is clearly a project with enormous potential," said Talisman UK General Manager Paul Blakeley.
That potential would translate into a sizable power output: as much as 1,000 megawatts of electricity, which would be plugged into the national grid. That's enough juice to power about 1 million homes.
Homes, though, aren't where the project's output is headed. The billion-dollar project is umbilically linked instead to Talisman's Beatrice offshore oilfield operation, located 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of the city of Aberdeen. The wind farm's electricity will help power those oilfields, which have yielded more than 150 million barrels since production began in 1981.
Scotland's Aggressive Alternative EnergyThe connection between the two Talisman projects didn't come by chance. The Scottish government's aggressive alternative energy goals plugged the two together.
Mandates Forged Link between Two Projects
Scotland is aiming to generate 40 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. That plan has left power-generating firms in Scotland with two choices: either generate 10 percent of their energy from renewable resources by 2010 or face fines of $50 per megawatt hour.
Beatrice Farm is part of Talisman's choice. And the proximity of the company's oilfields makes the huge wind farm far more feasible, Blakeley said.
"From a purely engineering perspective, we know that it is perfectly possible to develop wind farms on the UK Continental Shelf, particularly if, as is the case here, we combine offshore oilfield capability and infrastructure with wind-generation technology," said Blakeley. "Such a development in the Beatrice field would be complementary to our existing oil production operations in the Moray Firth."
Scottish and Southern Energy,Scotland is supplying two key supporting players in Beatrice Farm:
National Government Providing Support
One is Scottish and Southern Energy (www.scottish-southern.co.uk), which is joint-venturing with Talisman on the project. (The size of each firm's stake in the Beatrice Wind Farm hasn't been announced.) The other is Scotland's government, which, along with its Department of Trade and Industry (www.dti.gov.uk), is contributing grants to fund the farm's design study.
"We cannot meet our aspirations of renewable energy generation by onshore wind alone," First Minister Jack McConnell said in announcing a $644,000 project grant. "Opening up Scotland's seas, even in the deep and difficult waters of the North Sea, will genuinely make us world leaders in renewable energy, just as we are among the world's leading oil and gas producers."
The Beatrice Wind Farm will go a long way toward realizing the latest leadership goal. The North Sea project will provide roughly half the new power generation needed to meet Scotland's renewable energy goals.
The wind farm will be built on a North Sea sand bank that's part of Talisman's Beatrice oilfield, said Blakeley. That, he explained, will position the operation in "relatively shallow" waters about 132 feet (40 meters) deep. The shallower waters, along with governmental and public support, make the area "an ideal location," Blakeley added.
Talisman has tentatively identified three wind farm sites, which officials with the Calgary, Alberta-based company haven't named. All three are far enough offshore that the project's turbines will be "barely visible" from the shore line, said Blakeley.
Canada's largest independent company in oil and gas exploration and production, Talisman plans to mass produce the wind turbines onshore. The turbines would then be fixed to the seabed from an offshore platform. A government-funded study by the UK-based consulting firm of W.S. Atkins proposed three structural platform options. One is the conventional jacket design used in offshore oil operations. The other two options are more economical tubular designs.
Next Steps: Building ProjectDeciding between those options will fall to the project center in the area that Talisman and Scottish and Southern Energy will now build. The partnering companies didn't project the center's capital investment requirements.
Center, Creating Demo Models
The Beatrice Farm center will implement a $370-million engineering study. That study's end goal is to develop two five-megawatt demonstration models.
"We are very much at the infancy stage of the project," said Blakeley, "which would have a lead time of several years and many hurdles to overcome."
The project's $1.6-billion projected capital investment is one hurdle the joint-venture partners would like to lower. Both companies are trying to come up with strategies to lower costs. Some small relief may come from the $9 million in grants that the project has applied for from the European Union.
One hurdle the project won't face is finding the right work force, McConnell asserted. The area has long been a major energy-industry nexus.
"Aberdeen's position as the energy capital of Europe means the city has the skilled work force needed to exploit this new form of energy," said McConnell.
The joint-venture partners didn't offer projections as to how many jobs the new wind farm would create.
McConnell, however, said, "This new technology could have significant export potential, as well as create hundreds of new jobs in North Scotland. We want nothing less than a world-beating renewable energy industry."
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