Fixed Met Masts Become History as Floating LiDAR Takes the Stage

Fixed Met Masts Become History as Floating LiDAR Takes the Stage

Offshore WIND Team spoke to FLiDAR’s Bruce Douglas at EWEA Offshore 2013 held in Frankfurt. Mr. Douglas commented on the company’s latest contracts and growth within the offshore wind industry. He also explained the benefits of using a floating LiDAR over a fixed meteorological mast.

Offshore WIND: First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your latest contract with Mainstream Renewable Power and DONG Energy, which ordered their second FLiDAR device.

As the contract with DONG Energy is one of bigger contracts, can you tell me how important is it for your company?

Bruce Douglas: It’s very important to us, but also the Floating LiDAR industry in general since Dong is the world’s largest offshore wind developer.  We have been working with Dong for a couple of years now on developing this device, to provide cost effective and highly accurate wind measurement data.

We have already been involved in one project with Dong. We have deployed the device for them in the Irish Sea in June this year, so it has been running for six months, with very high availability of data, and it survived some significant storms. On top of that, they’ve invested again in a second device, which is in fact our new updated version with all the learning we have had so far.

Offshore WIND: What are the actual advantages of a floating LiDAR over fixed met masts for developers? Are there any big differences for a developer who orders a FLiDAR wind measurement device instead of a fixed met mast?

Bruce Douglas: There are three significant advantages. One is on costs, which are significantly less than that of met masts. It’s up to 10 times different in terms of cost. In terms of operation and maintenance, we think we still have to get some more experience in maintaining the device offshore, but it should be at the same level of O&M cost as a met mast. So basically it’s a capex advantage.

The second advantage is the flexibility of the floating system. Therefore, for permitting it could take a month or two. In terms of delivery, we can deliver the device within five or six months of the contract signature, and in terms of deployment we could do it in one day on sites up to 30-40 kilometers from shore, conditional on having the right weather conditions. It takes one day to sail out, deploy it and sail back.

The third advantage is no depth limit. It is impossible to place fixed met masts beyond the certain depth, so the next great step for offshore wind is in deeper waters, and  we can deploy this floating LIDAR in hundreds of meters of waters.

Offshore WIND: Do you think the FLiDAR will take over the industry?

Bruce Douglas: Given time, absolutely. As one expert said: “If floating lidar technology proves itself, as it should, then in the coming years there will be very few or no new fixed met masts built.” The reason that is driving this tendency is cost. We are driving down the lifetime cost of data collection. The other driver is accuracy. Now there were some questions about will this be accurate or not. We have now proven that it is accurate enough – within 1-2 percent of what a met mast can do.

Offshore WIND: You established the company only about a year ago, and you already cooperate with large offshore wind developers and very important projects. What helped you the most in achieving this?

Bruce Douglas: The Belgium-Flemish government provided some funding for us to start working on this. That was a great stepping stone to produce and test the prototype. The JV partners within FLiDAR , 3E and GeoSea, have provided very strong support to establish and grow the company and then the third breakthrough we’ve had was with the Carbon Trust. They funded a project on the Gwynt y Môr site to validate the FLiDAR against a fixed met mast.

Offshore WIND: Are you expecting any further orders for floating LiDAR soon?

Bruce Douglas: We are involved in negotiations with many of the leading offshore developers. The market is mainly in the UK, Round 2 and Round 3 projects, and also in France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and off the coasts of Portugal and Spain because of the water depths.

Offshore WIND:  Do you have any plans on further development of the device, or for some new investments in its improvement?

Bruce Douglas: The new version that was just brought out will be used by us for the upcoming projects. However we’re continuously improving this system, both from power system and communications.

Many improvements have been already made on this version. We have multiple communication systems which allow significant monitoring and control of the device. This is different from many of our competitors, because we are able to access and control it remotely and see information on battery state of charge, PV output etc. It’s using the mobile phone or satellite network, in fact, there are several SIM cards, several mobile phones on the device.

The mobile phone (GPRS) connections are however limited to the network coverage, the device needs to be within 20km offshore, but it also has a satellite backup. The data is stored on the buoy and we can download high frequency data by GPRS, Wi-Fi if we go near the buoy or if we actually get on the buoy we can download it via cable.


Offshore WIND staff, December 10, 2013; Image: flidar