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The Carbon Trust releases latest report into commercialisation of floating wind technology

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The Carbon Trust has released its latest report looking at floating wind turbines, dubbed the Floating Wind Joint Industry Project – Phase II. This report outlines the challenges facing the industry when it comes to development of floating wind technology, as well as how to accelerate its commercialisation. 

Floating wind turbines offer a lot of promise, but as of the time of writing just one wind farm utilises the technology. That’s why the Carbon Trust’s new report on the challenges facing the industry in its quest for commercialisation is so important. 

The findings summarise the work undertaken as part of Phase II of the Floating Wind JIP, across four main themes: turbine requirements and foundations scaling, heavy lift offshore operations, dynamic export cables and monitoring and inspection. The report also includes new market projections from the Carbon Trust, forecasting 70GW of floating wind capacity installed by 2040.

Floating wind technology enables offshore wind turbine installation in deeper waters not suitable for bottom-fixed turbines, unlocking new areas for renewable energy generation. Pilot and demonstration projects have shown the potential for similar, or even higher yields from floating turbines compared to bottom-fixed projects, as they can be situated in locations with higher wind resource.

However, technology development challenges to commercialisation remain. Phase II projects addressed some of these, with these key findings: 

Next-generation turbines only need minor modifications for floating

A study on turbine requirements and foundations scaling, delivered by Ramboll, looked at the potential impacts of installing larger, next generation turbines on floating substructures. Aside from turbine towers and controllers, it found that only minor modifications would likely be needed for future turbines, and that the required relative primary steel, secondary steel and mooring mass decreases for larger turbines.

New vessels or alternative lifting solutions needed for floating offshore heavy lift operations

A heavy lift offshore operations study undertaken by Seaway 7 investigated the challenges associated with floating heavy lift offshore construction and maintenance operations for turbines up to 20MW. It found that the limited availability and high cost of suitable floating heavy lift vessels in the market at present is a barrier to cost effectively undertaking operations offshore. There is a need for vessels capable of undertaking the required heavy lift operations or alternative lifting solutions, such as climbing crane technology. 

Dynamic export cable products for floating farms in development

This project, delivered by BPP Cable Solutions, investigated the challenges and assisted in the development of high voltage dynamic export cables required to transport power from floating offshore wind farms. Previous JIP studies have highlighted a lack of suitable dynamic cables currently available on the market. A competition was launched to support cable manufacturers develop and test suitable designs. Five cable manufacturers are currently being supported by the JIP to make these available as products for future projects.

No ‘quick win’ solutions for floating monitoring and inspection

A study focused on monitoring and inspection undertaken by Oceaneering, looked at the techniques for assessing the integrity of floating wind farms. It concluded that improvement is needed in both the collection of data and its usage to inform and manage asset integrity for floating wind farms, and in particular for subsea assets. For this there were no ‘quick win’ solutions, but techniques such as a digital twin approach, or unmanned vessels, could support cost effective solutions.

A bright future ahead for floating wind technology

Dan Kyle Spearman, manager of the Floating Wind JIP, the Carbon Trust, commented, “This report marks the culmination of over a years’ work through the Floating Wind JIP and it is clear that floating wind offers technology and supply chain investment opportunities.

“We expect that it will become a key sector for low carbon power generation and economic growth in geographies where deeper waters do not allow for bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines. The time is now for the floating wind industry to look to pre-commercial and commercial projects to deliver the cost reduction necessary for the sector to compete with other renewable energy options.”

Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s Energy Minister, added, “I am sure that floating offshore wind will play a crucial role in our future renewables generation, and in helping us achieve a green recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting research and development that will help address challenges associated with helping achieve commercial scale deployment of floating offshore wind, and are supporting innovation in the sector through our funding of the Floating Wind Joint Industry Project.

“The findings of this report from Phase II of the project are very much welcomed. It is particularly encouraging to see the significant growth projected for the floating offshore wind industry in the coming decades and we are keen to explore early opportunities associated with the ScotWind leasing round of Crown Estate Scotland, the electrification of production platforms in the oil and gas sector and for production of ‘green hydrogen’ for use in transport, heating and industry. The development of floating wind offers a massive opportunity for sustainable growth of the Scottish economy while realising our net-zero ambitions.”

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