80% of the world’s best wind resources are located in vast areas of deep, open water, such as the North Sea which is why floating turbines and technology could prove to be critical in unlocking the most potential from renewable power offshore.
The UK has taken a lead role in the development of key low-carbon technologies and has become the largest market for offshore wind in the world, driving down costs through deployment and innovation.
Meeting this ambitious target could see increased electrification within things such as transport and heating, and therefore according to a report published by the Committee on Climate Change, a doubling of electricity demand, with all power produced from low-carbon sources compared to 50% today.
Floating platforms are regarded as the future for offshore wind, and necessary for the UK to meet net-zero emissions by 2050, and Scotland’s net-zero emissions by 2045; offering the most cost-effective pathway to delivering 75GW of offshore wind in UK waters.
The floating technology will be a game changer in successful exploitation of the enormous wind potential available in deeper waters where there is more consistent and faster winds, but where fixed-bottom structures are either too expensive of too challenging to install.
Nearly three-quarters of the UK’s forward pipeline of projects are in waters over 50km from shore. As we ramp up ambition in the sector, we expect to push even further from shore and into areas of deeper water.
The world’s first commercial floating wind farm, the 30 MW Hywind Scotland project was developed off Aberdeen, and commissioned in 2017.
With each 175m tower comfortably dwarfing Big Ben, and turbines with the blade span of an airbus, Hywind was a large-scale experiment that proved to function exceptionally well in fierce conditions.
While the typical capacity for fixed-bottom offshore wind farms is anywhere between 45% and 60%, Hywind has operated at 65%, a feat achieved in spite of severe storms and a hurricane.
Further full-scale sites are in the development and planning phases, including Grupo Cobra’s Kincardine project also off the coast of Aberdeen, with the second phase being completed later this year.
Fixed-bottom offshore wind is maturing in the UK and Europe, and as a region we have become a global leader in the sector. But the floating market brings new opportunities, benefitting from the synergies with the skills and capabilities already held within the oil and gas sector.