the future of megaprojects

floating offshore wind: five fast facts

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Floating offshore wind has been dubbed the “game changer” for renewable energy. Ahead of more in-depth explorations of offshore wind in the coming weeks, today we are breaking down five key facts about this huge development in the energy sector.

1. Scotland is home to the first floating offshore wind farm

In 2017, the first full-scale offshore wind farm (FOW farm) was opened by Equinor. 15 miles off Scotland’s coastline, Hywind Scotalnd has the a 30MW capacity. The project has set records in its first two years of operations, achieving an averge capacity factor of 54% compared to the UK’s offshore wind average of 40%. A significant achievement indeed.

2. There are four different kinds of floating offshore platforms

Floating offshore wind power is not an easy thing to generate. As a result, different approaches have been taken in designing the floating platforms themselves. There are four distinct types of platform: barge, semi-submersible, spar and tension-leg platform (TLP). Behind each of these designs lie high levels of complexity and various debates around their efficacy. Don’t worry, we have an upcoming blog exploring each in detail coming soon. Although we can say now that the most popular platforms for FOW turbines are semi-submersible, spar and TLP.

3. Europe has the largest market of floating offshore wind in the world

European companies are the pioneers in FOW, leading three quarters of the FOW projects in the world. France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the UK have been trail blazers in the development of floating offshore wind. Partly this is due to a number of natural factors such as “large, deep territorial waters, [and] significant wind resources offshore” as well as “high population and industrial activity” near these countries’ coastlines. 

4. Demand is rising significantly

Even before recent geopolitical events saw the demand for renewable energy skyrocket, FOW energy was seeing increased demand. Geopolitical events have only served to deepen it. In March 2022, a group of British MPs called on the UK government to sharply increase its targets for FOW farms to be built in deeper waters surrounding the isles. This sharp rise in demand is being replicated around the world.

5. Floating offshore wind is hugely expensive

The generation costs for floating offshore wind are almost double those of fixed offshore wind. This can be explained partly by the number of designs that exist to anchor the floating turbines. According to Po Wen Cheng, Head of Wind Energy at the University of Stuttgart – ” I’ve lost count of how many concepts [for turbine anchoring] are actually out there…Ford didn’t make the car affordable to the massess by making 30 different types of car – they just made a Model T”. If we are to reduce the cost of FOW, he argues, “we cannot tolerate so many different concepts”. 

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Madeleine Jones Casey

Madeleine Jones-Casey

Content Lead at Foresight Works

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