Floating offshore wind is on the brink of a European breakthrough

9 June 2017

Floating offshore wind is no longer consigned to the laboratory, it is a viable technology ready to be rolled out on an industrial scale, according to a report from WindEurope, ‘Unleashing Europe’s offshore wind potential’, released on 7 June at the Offshore Wind Energy 2017 event in London.
A strong pipeline of projects in Europe, combined with the report’s prediction of plummeting costs and a recognition of the advantages conferred by location well away from coastlines suggests that the technology and its acceptance are both reaching maturity. Turbines can be significantly larger on floating installations and construction, installation, operation and maintenance costs could be lower than on fixed sites. Capacity can thus be improved leading to an increased generation of electricity, allowing for cost reductions of 10% by 2020 and 25% by 2030.
Ivan Pineda, WindEurope director for Public Affairs commented: "Floating offshore wind is no longer an R&D exercise. The technology has developed rapidly in recent years and it is now ready to be fully commercialised at utility scale projects. Adding this option to the market means more offshore wind in total and it’s this extra capacity that we will need to meet the 2030 goals".
The technology offers a vast potential for growth. 80% of all the offshore wind resource is located in waters 60m and deeper in European seas, where traditional seabed-fixed offshore is less attractive.  At 4000 GW, it is significantly more than the resource potential of the US and Japan combined.
Tapping into this resource may be a significant factor in reaching the EU target of 27% of energy from renewables by 2030. As highlighted in WindEurope’s report, offshore wind as a whole could in theory generate between 2600 TWh and 6000 TWh per year at a competitive cost – €65/MWh or below, representing 80%-180% of the EU’s total electricity demand.

Floating offshore wind projects in Europe:

30 MW Hywind project, Scotland, expected commissioning date 2017;
48 MW Kincardine project, Scotland, 2018;
10 MW Dounreay Tri, Scotland, 2018;
30 MW WindFloat Atlantic, Portugal, 2018-2019;
4x25 MW Pre-commercial projects, France, 2020;
100 MW Atlantis/Ideol project, UK, 2021;
30 MW Gaelectic, Ireland, 2021.  

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