On Friday we visited the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine to learn about offshore energy production and research in Scotland. We took a bus to the site where we were given the proper safety gear to visit the turbine.
The company owns the world’s most advanced, open-access offshore wind turbine dedicated to R&D. Connected to the land by a walkway, the turbine allows developers to demonstrate new systems and methods – without the associated time and costs of conducting tests at a working offshore wind farm. Some of the research projects include yaw-changing according to optimal wind conditions using LIDAR-systems and testing maintenance robots that can perform difficult tasks on the turbine blades.
Offshore renewable research is extremely important for Scotland’s energy sector since the country has great offshore resources and has invested heavily on building new offshore wind farms. One of the challenges that the country is looking into now is how to deploy the necessary capacity, and supporting O&M and infrastructure, in sites that are further from shore in more difficult to access areas.
The research focus is in fact quite significant as this turbine is the only offshore turbine that third party researchers can use to conduct their own research. This also means that the turbine’s capacity factor (actual production divided by theoretical maximum) is closer to 25-35 % instead of 40-45 % that typical production focused wind farms have.
The turbine has quite an array of additional measuring apparatuses such as those which allow the user to examine blade, tower and substructure behaviour. Having these as part of the turbine means that a digital replica of the turbine can be created and studied, which is not possible with typical wind turbines.
In addition to offshore wind, the ORE Catapult also focuses on other offshore energy sources, including wave and tidal energy. Tidal energy especially was a favourite of our hosts, since Scotland has the greatest tidal potential in Europe. Tidal energy also differs from other offshore energy sources since its predictability means that it can be used as a baseload.
After the excursion we took the bus back to the Edinburgh. We had some snacks for the long bus ride but we decided to have lunch since we had a tour to a whiskey distillery. After the lunch we headed to Holyrood distillery for a tour around the facility. Along the tour we were given tasting samples of their gins. To our surprise, we weren’t given any whiskey because the distillery was fairly new and whiskey has to be matured for at least 3 years. We were given a tour where the guide explained how whiskey is made. The explanation was quite general but we had some questions about the process and about whiskey in general. The tour was very enlightening and the gins were very tasty. Although, some of us don’t like whiskey and some didn’t like the gins, we enjoyed the activity.
When the tour ended, we had some drinks at the distillery bar before leaving for the accommodation. At the accommodation we met the rest of our group who didn’t want to participate in the tour. We chose a place to eat and had dinner. Afterwards we went back to the hostel and spent quite a peaceful evening.