Seven new designs for offshore wind turbine foundations that could revolutionize the construction of wind farms by overcoming engineering challenges and lowering costs were shortlisted for funding Tuesday by the Carbon Trust

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The designs are aimed at reducing the high costs associated with offshore wind construction. Deepwater foundations required for offshore wind comprise at least 20% of the total project cost, the Carbon Trust said.

Offshore wind currently costs around GBP3 million a megawatt as many of the sites now being tendered for development are further from shore in deep water and in really treacherous conditions.

“Without new thinking to cut costs many planned projects could remain on the drawing board, putting our carbon targets and energy security at risk,” said Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, an independent company set up by the U.K. government to accelerate the move to a low-carbon economy.

“We must urgently re-engineer our energy system and building offshore wind farms while creating onshore jobs must play a central role,” Delay said.

Offshore wind energy is a cornerstone of the U.K.’s plan to meet a European Union requirement to source 15% of its energy needs from renewables by 2020, from around 2% now. Currently, there is 4 gigawatts of installed wind capacity in the U.K., including 600 megawatts offshore, where there are some of the best wind conditions in the world, according to the British Wind Energy Association.

The Crown Estate, which manages the coastal seabed, has estimated around GBP100 billion in investment through 2020 is expected in its most recent tender for licenses to develop 25 GW of offshore wind.

The shortlisted designs will receive up to GBP100,000 support for concept development, engineering analysis, commercial feasibility and technical assistance.

Up to three of the seven will be built and installed in largescale demonstration projects in 2010-2012, with funding from a consortium led by the Carbon Trust and including Scottish and Southern Energy PLC’s (SSE.LN) renewable energy unit Airtricity Developments, DONG Energy, RWE AG’s (RWE.XE) renewable energy subsidiary RWE Innogy, Iberdrola SA’s (IBE.MC) U.K. unit ScottishPower Renewables and Statoil ASA (STO).

The seven designs include floating turbines anchored to the sea bed and spider-like tripod structures.

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