A new report released from the Floating Wind Joint Industry Project (Floating Wind JIP) outlines the key technology challenges and priority innovation needs for the sector to reach cost parity with other energy technologies. The report is a summary of key findings from the first phase of technical projects delivered in 2017 and was officially launched today by the Scottish Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, at the All-Energy Conference in Glasgow.

Despite only 50 MW of floating wind power being installed globally, the nascent sector is already gearing up for large-scale commercial projects that could reach multiple gigawatts of installed power by the end of the next decade. The increased scale of deployment will bring new challenges that require innovative solutions to de-risk the technology and reduce costs. The Floating Wind JIP has been established to accelerate the development of these solutions, starting with a focus on electrical systems, mooring systems, and logistics for construction and operation. The findings from these studies have seeded four new projects, recently kicked off in 2018.

Among the key findings, a study on electrical system requirements delivered by Petrofac identified the lack of suitable dynamic cables to export power back to shore as a significant bottleneck. In response, the Carbon Trust has recently kicked off a project that will aim to accelerate the development of high voltage dynamic power cables (>132kV). Qualification of electrical equipment for floating substations is another key requirement.

photo øyvind gravaas woldcam statoil hywind scotland 5 turbines at buchan deep august 2017 1570164 edited

Caption: Photo credit: Øyvind Gravaas

An assessment of mooring systems led by Ramboll identified several learnings from the oil and gas industry, but also highlighted the need for dedicated solutions for the floating wind sector. In particular, synthetic mooring line materials offer potential cost savings compared to conventional steel chain or wire moorings, if de-risked for long-term application. The large volume of mooring lines and anchors required in commercial projects means that there is also a need for efficient approaches to installation, in addition to operations and maintenance. The latter has triggered a new study into optimal monitoring and inspection regimes across a floating wind farm.

Infrastructure and logistics will be critical to cost reduction efforts and opening new markets for offshore wind power. A study led by London Offshore Consultants (LOC) assessed the requirements and methods to construct and operate a 500 MW floating wind farm, highlighting the importance of adopting serial manufacturing processes. Major component repairs was also identified as a key area that requires further investigation, which has led to the commissioning of a new study into heavy lift offshore operations.

A final study to be delivered in 2018 will investigate turbine design requirements and the impact of large next generation turbines (10-15 MW capacity) on floating foundations.

Scottish Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse said that the report would be, “invaluable in helping us unlock the potential of floating wind technology for developing a sustainable energy future for Scotland and in developing expertise and technology to open up export opportunities in overseas markets.”

Rhodri James, Manager Offshore Wind at the Carbon Trust commented, “We need to ensure that the sector is prepared to move forward with large-scale commercial projects within the next 5-10 years. This report aims to make the challenges faced more transparent to enable the supply chain to engage and help to find the necessary solutions.”

The Floating Wind JIP is a collaborative research and development initiative between the Carbon Trust, Scottish Government, and twelve leading international offshore wind developers: EnBW, ENGIE, Eolfi, E.ON, Iberdrola, innogy, Kyuden Mirai Energy, Ørsted, Shell, Statoil, Vattenfall, and Wpd.