Sweden’s SeaTwirl, a designer of a new type of wind turbine which floats at sea, has landed €70mn of funds from two major investors; Colruyt Group an €8.6bn Belgium supermarket chain, which also owns Parkwind a wind energy group; and Norsea, a North Sea logistics group with good experience in supporting wind farms.
The weird looking SeaTwirl S2 is due out in 2020 and will look much the same as the S1, but yield 1 MW peak. At that level if may struggle to compete with giant traditional wind turbines on floating platforms, such as those using turbines from Vestas from MHI Vestas Offshore and from Siemens Gamesa. These can give off between 6 MW and 10 MW, but are much taller, seem more prone to the elements, and SeaTwirl would claim they are far harder to maintain.
SeaTwirl has a wind turbine which is divisible above and below the housing which holds the generator and bearing, which means that the entire generator and bearing housing can be replaced just above the water surface by boat, which almost entirely cuts out downtime. Some other designs are maintainable on a tow to dry dock basis. The SeaTwirl is also unique in its rotor design in that it can pick up wind from any direction.
SeaTwirl initially has been targeting small islands as its main source of sales, but could just as easily adapt its design to a broader sea farm of multiple SeaTwirls which runs offshore and supports part of a major country.
SeaTwirl has agreed with Colruyt and Norsea to a financing round where they each get 19% of the company for a combined 70mn Swedish Krona (about $7.5mn) valuing the firm at just under $20mn. This should see the next generation SeaTwirl S2-1MW built and measured in action.
There is a lot at stake. The installed base of the wind turbine market is already around 563 GW of energy, with 540 GW of that onshore, and just 23 GW offshore and almost all of that offshore power built on foundations which reach the seabed, in under 50 meters of depth. It is estimated that at a very minimum, the floating wind market would immediately jump to 100 GW and if any one supplier or design can prove its economic worth.
Most floating wind has been installed on a trial basis over the past 10 years, and only in the last two years have projects moved into “production” phases, for instance at the Hywind Project in Scotland, which was dreamed up as far back as 2001, but was built out in 2017 into a 30 MW pilot park and it is scheduled to go bigger still in the near future.
It was only a week or so ago that SeaTwirl was finally granted a patent for its design by the US patent Office. The design had already been patented in 2017 in Sweden, but many European patents in the past have been hijacked by the failure to gain US patent office approval.
“Having NorSea Group and Colruyt Group/Parkwind as partners would enable to take SeaTwirl to a whole new level with the respective companies’ expertise in offshore operations and the establishment of offshore wind farms”, said SeaTwirl’s chairman Roger Cederberg.
Colruyt Group, via its subsidiary Parkwind, develops, builds and has operated offshore wind farms in Europe since 2009, and wants to further contribute to the development and future growth of offshore wind.
The US Patent Office approval is key for SeaTwirl to target the very steep West Coast which is known for its deep waters, especially off the coast of California, the US state which is leading the way in its push towards 100% renewable energy. We understand that the Pacific Ocean there gets deep very quickly limiting the space for offshore turbines and floating are considered the only option.
“The US is a potentially very large market for floating wind power, not least on the west coast, which is both densely populated and has great sea depths. Therefore, it is particularly important to protect our innovations in the US market,” said Gabriel Strängberg, CEO of SeaTwirl in a prepared statement.