At the New Energy Update Conference in Boston last month, Walter Musial, Manager, Offshore Wind, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) gave an update on the status of floating offshore wind technology.  Here are some of his comments:

“With fixed-bottom costs coming down, this translates in many cases to the same benefits being realized in floating technology for mature commercial scenarios.  There are abundant [wind] resources in US waters for floating technology.  By moving to deeper waters, you reduce the number of siting conflicts.” 

“Floating and fixed technologies will be at the same cost level in the future.  There is nothing in the balance sheet that says that floating has to be more expensive, it simply is not as mature a technology compared to fixed at this time.  Floating will be commercialized within a decade.  The US needs floating wind technology and needs to be a leader.  It is a huge economic opportunity.” 

“The first wave of floating wind test projects used conventional fixed turbines.  When turbines come into service that are optimized for floating wind, they will be more efficient.  The second wave, currently at least 11 projects globally totaling about 229MW, will build on what was learned in the trial projects.”

“The US has vast areas that could be targeted for floating wind, especially on the West Coast and Hawaii.  The Great Lakes also have deep water and strong wind resources, but the issue of ice makes deployment more difficult.”

“Ultimately, the US will need a mix of fixed and floating offshore wind technologies to take advantage of these resources and meet its renewable energy needs.”