Principle Power Inc.
November 25, 2013 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Developing the New Technology of Offshore Deep Water Wind Turbine Installation
Principle Power Inc.
is a technology developer focused on the intermediate and deep-water depth
(greater than 40 meters) offshore wind energy market. Principle Power's
enabling product, a floating wind turbine foundation called WindFloat,
enables siting of offshore wind turbines independent of water depth, thus
allowing exploitation the world's highest capacity wind resources.
Deep-water offshore wind installations, to date, have not been feasible due
to economic and technological limitations.
Principle Power Inc.
206 905 1139
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – November 25, 2013
Ms. Weinstein: Principle Power is developing technology that allows installation of offshore wind turbines in deep waters. It is a new technology that opens up markets previously inaccessible due to the lack of enabling technologies. In the process we are changing the paradigm of the whole offshore wind industry because up until now all installations have been in shallow water and required significant amount of support infrastructure. The use of floating structures, which is what we produce, allows offshore wind farms to be installed in any water depth at locations that are chosen based on their proximity to the load centers and do not require the same amount of support infrastructure.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us a little bit more of how you came to develop the structures?
Ms. Weinstein: Our WindFloat is a floating support structure for large offshore wind turbines that can generate greater than 5 megawatts of power. The idea came from two engineers that worked in the offshore oil and gas industry. WindFloat combines two mature technologies, the floating offshore oil and gas platform design principles and the wind turbines. The wind industry has matured over the last 25 years, starting with land installation and moving into shallow waters over the last 15 years. Though there are gigawatts of installed capacity around the world the United States is yet to see the first installation.
The idea came because we said ‘We know a lot about oil platforms that float; most of the oil platforms that are built today are floating platforms and we know about the wind turbines’. We also saw the limitations of the offshore wind industry today because installations required water depths of no more than 30-40 meters. Yet most of the locations around the world exhibit water depth deeper than 40 meters; hence the question - what about the rest of the world? What about the rest of locations? How can we tap into vast offshore wind resources off West Coast of the United States or the Great Lakes or the Northeast, or the rest European waters beyond the North Sea and the Baltic Sea where you do not have any shallow water to speak off suitable for utilities scale offshore wind farms? When we got together we said, “I think we can offer something very interesting to the offshore wind industry that would allows to extend the market into the deeper waters, get to the best wind resource areas and, most importantly, reduce the infrastructure costs and bottlenecks”.
CEOCFO: What is the structure? What is it made out of? What have you understood about combining the two aspects that others do not?
If you look at the oil and gas platform, they do float and they sit in
pretty deep waters, but their function is to provide an ability to extract
oil from the ocean floor. The main requirement for those structures is to be
very stable, as they need to protect the risers that go from the surface all
the way to the ocean floor. A floating structure that is needed to support
an offshore wind turbine is based on a different set of principles. A
floating support structure for wind turbines has to be engineered such that
it reduces side motions, called pitch angles. The up and down motion with
the waves is going to be in your same rotational plane as turbines spin and
would not impact the turbine operation. In other words reducing leaning
sideways, and doing it in a cost effective manner is the main challenge of
the design for a floating support structure. If you can eliminate the pitch
then the turbine should operate with the same efficiency as it would
be sitting on fixed foundation. The challenge in front of us was to design
and demonstrate such operation in the ocean environment.
CEOCFO: Why Portugal?
Ms. Weinstein: That is a good question. As any start-up company knows that you go where the money is. Because without money you cannot really do anything and Portugal became the country that was willing to take the risk and willing to put the funding together to install the prototype. At the time, there was no funding for what we needed in the US – the DOE funding for the demonstration projects came about only at the end of last year. The DOE funding would allow us to install a number of pre-commercial WindFloat systems with larger turbines – we are planning on using 6MW Siemens direct drive turbines.
CEOCFO: What did you find when you went into the real world?
Ms. Weinstein: Actually, we found out that the WindFloat performed even better than we expected. We have already demonstrated many firsts and are, effectively, changing the paradigm of the offshore wind industry. First of all, we have now demonstrated that the WindFloat and its principle design features are very adaptable to the local conditions. We were able to build the unit in a country that never built an oil platform. In fact, the last time they built anything big as a frigate was about 35 years ago. Yes, it took a lot of effort and many sleepless nights and 24 hour operations, but we did it.We also demonstrated that indeed offshore wind can be installed without the use of any heavy-lift vessels that are presently required for shallow water installation. Those vessels cost a great deal of money and they are hard to come by. Also they create conditions where the weather windows are limited to conduct offshore operations. This was very important because that is what I said at the beginning – we really are changing the paradigm of the whole offshore wind industry and challenging its basic principles. The use of floating offshore wind would result in reduced environmental impact, shorter time to installation, shorter design time and all of that leads to the lower cost of energy. The lower cost of energy is really what the utilities want to see as everyone’s goal is to reduce the cost of energy to consumers.
CEOCFO: Are the results in Portugal enough to convince the right people or are there still skeptics?
Ms. Weinstein: There are plenty of skeptics and really the biggest challenge is that we are creating a new industry of deepwater offshore wind. Our success will depend on our ability to attract the needed funding. Finding investors is pretty challenging. The bank becomes even harder to convince because the banks are very risk adverse and they are not set-up to take new technology risks. They need long-term performance data; they need history of something. When you are building a device in a quantity of one, you will be creating history but you do not have yet a history to rely on.
CEOCFO: What are your next steps?
Ms. Weinstein: Our next step is to install a cluster of devices. We have a project in Portugal that was awarded under the European Commission that promotes new renewable energy project development. That is called New Entrant's Reserve 300 – NER300 for short. That funding is awarded to the Portuguese government that in turn would work with a project developer. The plan is to install 3 to 5 unit Portugal. At the same time, we were one of the seven offshore wind demonstration projects selected by the Department of Energy at the end of last year with out WindFloat Pacific proposal to install 5 WindFloat units with Siemens 6MW turbines offshore Coos Bay, OR. In May of next year DOE will down-select from 7 projects to 3 that would proceed towards implementation phase and would receive an additional 47 million from the DOE. We are hoping to be 1 of the 3, but we have to wait and see.
CEOCFO: You said with the design of the project that there were some variables as you are putting it together. How much do you take, let's say, from the Portugal design and what needs to be adapted for specific area?
Ms. Weinstein: The WindFloat design, as I mentioned before, is very flexible and can be adapted to just about any location as long as the water is deeper than 40 meters. We cannot really go shallower. Otherwise, you look for the best wind resource and work with fisherman to identify an acceptable site – we need to ensure that we are “good neighbors” and need to take into account fishermen’s interests as well. You need to know where your population centers are and where the grid connection will be. We can choose those locations because the only real limitation is the water depth; no shallower than 40 meters.
CEOCFO: Green, in general, and wind specifically, used to be more in favor than it is now. Do people look at your project with a different light?
Ms. Weinstein: In a way that answers the prior question you asked about Portugal because Europe is very different than the United States. European markets are a lot more interested in renewable energy. I think the reason why people are starting to maybe say, "Wow. Renewable energy is not all that sexy anymore," is because they are forgetting about the main reason why we need it and we needed it now - we are investing in the climate. To suggest that natural gas is clean and does not produce greenhouse gases is not correct. If we want to continue impacting the environment, sure, let's burn all the fossil fuels we can, but I think we need to be thinking broader and deeper and wider to realize that we are impacting the climate; we are impacting the planet. The frequency, intensity and severity of natural events that we are witnessing now are already linked for the climate change caused by humans. I do not think we can continue to be ostriches, put our heads in the sand and say “it is not really happening”. It is happening. Whether it is wind or solar or waves, whatever renewable energy is available should be used so that we can reduce the amount of fossil fuels we burn.
CEOCFO: Why pay attention to Principle Power?
Principle Power is creating a paradigm shift in the offshore wind industry
as what was witnessed in the 70ies in the oil and gas industry – it had to
move into deeper waters by adapting floating platforms technology. Back then
some investors took the risk and it paid off. We are doing the same thing
for the offshore wind industry and I hope we’ll offer similar returns to
those that are willing to take the front-end risk. We are creating the
FUTURE of offshore wind – one WindFloat at a time.
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