Total commitment to floating wind in the Celtic Sea

3 June 2020

Simply Blue Energy (Celtic Sea energy developer), and Total have established a partnership to develop floating wind projects in the Welsh waters of the Celtic Sea, UK.

Above: WindFloat with Vestas turbine


The first development will be Erebus, a 96 MW demonstration project at water depths of 70 m, for which an application has already been submitted to the Crown Estate. The intention is that the project will be developed to use Principle Power’s WindFloat® technology, one of the most well advanced floating wind technologies currently under development.

Exploiting the potential of the Celtic Sea could make a positive contribution to the UK’s target of reaching Net-Zero by 2050, whilst offering exciting new opportunities for industry in areas such as Wales and Cornwall. Simply Blue Energy has established an office in Pembroke to work with the local supply chain on the opportunities created by this project.

The Celtic Sea describes the sea to the south of Wales to the north of Devon and Cornwall. It stretches as far west as Ireland and south to the coast of Brittany.

In a recent report*, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult has suggested that there could be as much as 50 GW of generating capacity available in the Celtic Sea in Irish and UK waters. This is a significant amount of capacity given that the Committee on Climate Change suggests the UK will need at least 75 GW of operating offshore wind capacity to reach the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050.

On 2 March 2020 the UK government published a consultation document in relation to the next auction round under the Contract for Differences (CFD) scheme (the UK government’s main mechanism for providing revenue support to new low carbon power generation projects), due in April 2021, indicating strong support for floating wind.

“With its entry into floating offshore wind, Total confirms its ambition to contribute to the development of renewable energy worldwide”, said Patrick Pouyanne´, chairman & CEO of Total. He described floating offshore wind as an “extremely promising” technology to which Total can bring “its extensive expertise in offshore operations & maintenance” with “the appropriate skills to meet the technological and financial requirements that determine the success of future floating offshore developments.”

Location of the Celtic Sea

“It is like being in Aberdeen in the 1960s”, said Sam Roch-Perks, managing director of Simply Blue Energy, “except from Pembroke we look out onto a sea that can deliver wind energy, helping the UK reach its 2050 Net-Zero target.” Together with Total “we will progress the first stepping- stone projects that will allow the local supply chain to build up their capabilities to help deliver the larger projects that will be developed for the 2030s.”

It is anticipated that Erebus project will have strong connections with the £60 million Pembroke Dock Marine (PDM) project, located on the Milford Haven Waterway, the aim of which is to create a “world-class centre for marine engineering”, with the involvement of ORE Catapult, Marine Energy Wales, the Port of Milford Haven and Wave Hub Limited, and part funding via the Swansea Bay City Deal.

Simply Blue Energy was founded in 2011. The company develops energy and aquaculture projects around the coasts of the UK and Ireland, with a focus on floating wind and wave energy projects and the development of sustainable salmon farms. It secures the best project opportunities in the UK and Irish waters and then brings together the right partners to make it happen.

The WindFloat® concept aims to reduce environmental risk and cost by using relatively simple assembly and installation techniques, where all heavy lifting operations happen in a protected environment on dry land (at the port) using onshore cranes and common maritime transportation methods, such as tugboats, instead of expensive offshore installation vessels. WindFloat® can also support the largest commercially available wind turbines, which helps to increase power generation capacity and drive significant reductions in lifecycle costs.

With 100 MW under construction and at an advanced stage of development in Portugal, Scotland, and France, together with a “multi-GW commercial pipeline globally”, Principle Power describes itself as the “market leader in floating offshore wind technology.”

Simply Blue Energy has been advised in the transaction by Green Giraffe, specialist renewable energy corporate finance firm, and legally by Fieldfisher in Dublin.

Accelerating floating wind technology in Scotland

The Floating Wind Technology Acceleration Competition run by the UK Carbon Trust’s Floating Wind Joint Industry Project has announced eight technologies to receive Scottish government funding and developer support.

The competition was designed to address what are considered to be four key industry challenge areas that need to be overcome to commercialise floating wind: monitoring and inspection; mooring systems; heavy lift maintenance; and tow to port maintenance.

The successful applicants are from a variety of sectors including oil and gas, IT and telecommunications, and engineering. The innovations range in maturity, therefore the funding will be used to support different types of activity, from desktop studies to offshore demonstration.

The companies and their winning technologies are:

  • Fugro, AS Mosley, and University of Strathclyde (monitoring and inspection). Condition monitoring software which extrapolates from readily available acceleration and motion data points in floating offshore wind structures to determine how the wider structure responds to stress.
  • Technology from Ideas and WFS Technologies (monitoring and inspection). A load monitoring system to identify stresses on mooring lines and when maintenance is needed. The monitoring system will be integrated into an existing spring, which also acts as a damper on mooring lines, and is powered by movement of the lines.
  • Dublin Offshore (mooring systems). A load reduction device located part way up the mooring line and pivots in the water to minimise movement of the floating platform during wave events.
  • Intelligent Mooring Systems and University of Exeter (mooring systems). A new pressure-based damper which sits between the platform and mooring line to reduce the load on floating platforms.
  • RCAM Technologies and the Floating Wind Technology Company (mooring systems). A concrete anchor, produced using 3D printing technology, which is sunk and then embedded in the seabed by suction.
  • Vryhof (mooring systems). An adjustable lock on the seabed used to manipulate the tension of the mooring lines. This is an alternative to a winch on the turbine platform, and enables vessels to adjust the tension of mooring lines at a safe distance from the platform.
  • Conbit (heavy lift maintenance). A temporary crane placed on top of the turbine (nacelle) to winch parts up and down for maintenance. This could enable larger turbines to be serviced offshore than is currently feasible.
  • Aker Solutions (tow to port maintenance). A splice box connecting two dynamic array cables, and allowing them to be wet-stored on the seabed when a turbine is towed to port. This will also enable an array of floating wind turbines to remain operational when one floating platform is removed for maintenance.

Dolphyn moves to phase 2

Another recent step forward for floating wind was the award to ERM (sustainability consultancy) of £3.12 million from the UK government to further develop its Dolphyn project, which has the eventual aim of producing ‘green’ hydrogen at scale from floating offshore wind turbines.

To meet carbon targets in the UK and more widely around the world, it is now widely accepted that hydrogen needs to be a significant component in any viable long-term solution, for heat, electricity generation and transport. ERM’s Dolphyn project (see MPS January 2020, pp 18-19) envisages an integrated system combining all of the technologies required to bring the latest floating wind and hydrogen production technologies together to enable offshore wind resources to contribute toward hydrogen production.

The initial engineering work, which was a phase 1 “proof of concept,” is now complete and with the support of the UK government under its ‘Hydrogen Supply Programme’, the project now moves forward to phase 2, detailed engineering and consents, with a view to making a final investment decision on a 2 MW prototype facility by March 2021. This also gives time for other stakeholder investment into the project.

The development plan for the project targets start-up of the 2 MW prototype Dolphyn facility in summer 2024. A 10 MW full scale pre-commercial facility is planned to follow by 2027, with full scale commercialisation shortly afterwards.

* The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult produced the report, Benefits of Floating Offshore Wind to Wales and the South West, for the Welsh government and the Cornish and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, in January 2020.

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