Offshore wind enables countries to take full advantage of the abundant wind resource while revitalizing coastal communities and placing energy production in close proximity to consumption centers.
Given that offshore wind can be deployed at scale and relatively quickly compared to other large-scale energy production facilities, it has been widely recognized as a gamechanger in the clean energy transition and the key to enabling decarbonization trajectories compliant with the Paris Agreement.
A wind turbine can be installed offshore using two different technologies. Below we will cover the differences between bottom-fixed offshore wind technology, whereby the turbine is mounted on top of a structure piled into the seabed, and floating offshore wind technology, which uses a floating foundation anchored to the seabed by mooring lines, which ensure that the unit maintains its position.
While bottom-fixed offshore wind is established and proven, there are many regions in the world that have limited potential for deploying this technology due to geographic limitations, for example the significant water depth in relative proximity to the coast. This presents a great opportunity for the use of floating offshore wind technology, which enables access to deep-water wind resources and unlocks the potential for a worldwide energy transition.
Floating offshore wind allows the turbines to be placed further offshore, addressing concerns of local stakeholders who may see close-to-shore developments as interfering with their activities.
The visual impact of the turbines can be reduced if they are built further away from the coast, which is particularly important for tourist destinations.
The environmental impacts are minimized since floating technology uses less invasive mooring systems and allows for greater flexibility in terms of location.
Finally, floating wind offers the advantages of more streamlined operations and maintenance (return to port for large correctives) and decommissioning, ultimately reducing costs.
The 30 megawatt (MW) Hywind project in Scotland, which uses Equinor’s technology, was the first to pave the way for the deployment of multiple unit floating wind arrays in 2017. The WindFloat Atlantic project was commissioned in Portugal in July 2020 and features 8.4 MW wind turbines (the largest wind turbines installed on a floating foundation) with Principle Power’s Windfloat® semi-submersible floaters.
We are now beginning to see more large-scale (several hundred megawatts) commercial projects announced in different countries around the world.