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Floating wind farms are very innovative and can be a crucial part of the energy mix of the future

Floating offshore wind is a fast evolving technology with the potential for less foundation material, shortened installation cycle and decommissioning, and additional wind power generation at water depths exceeding 50 metres to 60 metres. This technology involves an offshore wind turbine mounted on a floating structure, that allows the turbine to generate electricity in water depths where bottom-mounted structures are not feasible. The technology is fast entering the pre-commercial phase, featuring a large variety of floater designs from spars, semi-submersibles, and barges to tension leg systems.

 

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Floating offshore wind energy is an emerging option for generating power in deeper water further offshore than wind turbines fixed on the seafloor. While there are relatively few large-scale floating wind farms in operation, experts hope floating turbines could greatly expand the scope of offshore wind, generating power more efficiently where winds are stronger, and where turbines are less visible from land. We use a high spatial and temporal resolution power system optimisation model to explore the conditions that lead to the deployment of floating offshore wind and the effect this has on the rest of the electricity system for Great Britain in 2050. We perform a sensitivity analysis on three dimensions: total share of renewables, floating offshore costs and the impact of waves on operation. We find that all three impact the deployment of floating offshore wind energy. A clear competition between floating offshore wind and conventional offshore wind is demonstrated, with less impact on other renewable sources. It is shown that floating wind is used to provide access to greater spatial diversification. Further, access to more distant regions also affects the optimal placement of conventional offshore wind, as spatial diversification is spread between floating and bottom-mounted sites. The floating wind technology, with its inherent importance on the interaction of wind turbine and floater dynamics, requires an appropriate multidisciplinary engineering approach. The technology holds the key to an inexhaustible resource potential in Europe. 80% of all the offshore wind resource is located in waters 60 m and deeper in European seas, where traditional bottom-fixed offshore wind (BFOW) is not economically attractive. According to GlobalData, offshore wind is expected to play a key role in reaching European and international climate and renewable energy targets, the design limitations of foundation-based offshore wind farms means they have to be built in relatively shallow waters and close to land.

As the floating wind technology continues to develop, the industry is beginning to follow. While one could say that Europe is expected to be the key growth driver within the next 5-10 years, Asia is quickly recognising the potential of floating wind power. With ambitions of becoming an exporter of floating wind technology and services, the Asian governments are looking into leveraging the advantages of renewable floating offshore wind to address the climate crisis and at the same time meet their contribution to reaching the world’s carbon reduction goals. Since Asia is surrounded by deep oceans, countries in this area are potentially big markets for floating wind turbine deployment. According to industry estimates, the technical potential for floating wind power is around 7,000 GW for Europe, the US and Japan combined. Among the high potential markets, Japan has set a target of 4 GW to be installed by 2030, followed by around 2 GW in France, US and UK, and 1 GW in Taiwan. There are currently four substructure designs for floating offshore wind: barge, semi-submersible, spar buoy and tension leg platform. The first three are loosely moored to the seabed, allowing for easier installation, while the tension leg platform is more firmly connected to the seabed. This allows for a more stable structure.

Floating offshore wind is up on the ladder to become commercially competitive with other forms of electricity generation sources and a dependable source of power. The challenge for the industry is to reduce costs to move from expensive demonstrators to a commercially viable commercial model. Further, economies of scale will be necessary to drive the costs down. Floating foundations have already been proven in harsh operating environments; a number of models have been built and used to project the cost parity that floating wind can achieve with fixed-bottom. The results from the floating wind demonstration projects are encouraging and have drawn the attention of governments and industry towards the development of floating offshore wind prospects through investment and operating aid.

Floating offshore wind is a fast evolving technology with the potential for less foundation material, shortened installation cycle and decommissioning, and additional wind power generation at water depths exceeding 50 metres to 60 metres. This technology involves an offshore wind turbine mounted on a floating structure, that allows the turbine to generate electricity in water depths where bottom-mounted structures are not feasible.

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