Floating offshore wind turbines are coming

mockup of a floating offshore wind farm
The world’s largest floating offshore wind farm will sport 11 wind turbines of 8 megawatts each| Image: Equinor

Plans for a whole fleet of gigantic floating wind turbines off the coast of Norway

When wind turbines float and they can unlock new reserves of offshore wind energy that have barely been tapped. Progress is being made in developing floating wind energy – the world’s leading global energy producer, Equinor, currently has it’s Hywind Floating Wind Technology up and running in Scotland in a five-turbine floating wind farm.

Mooring chains for Hywind
Mooring chains for Hywind

France has also been working diligently in the floating wind field, and now has a two-megawatt floating wind turbine in operation off its coast with EU support, and the Spanish company Ibderola is launching a floating offshore wind effort in the North Sea.

Floating wind turbine design diagram
Floating wind turbine designs

An energy consortium in California is also taking a serious look at the idea. The US Department of Energy is pumping dollars into R&D, including in Portugal, where an experimental WindFloat project has been under way since 2011.

Before the floating offshore wind industry can really take off however, it needs to build supply chain efficiencies and economies of scale. When it comes to offshore wind farms that are fixed to the sea floor, the UK is a world leader. In fact the world’s largest offshore wind farm is Walney, off the coast of Cumbria. It is able to generate power for 600,000 homes.

The Walney offshore wind farm
The Walney offshore wind farm opened in 2018 and is the largest in the world

Two other offshore sites also have huge output, including the London Array, which is 10 miles north of Ramsgate in the Thames Estuary.

Scotland’s single largest source of renewable energy isn’t hydroelectric, as many assume, but the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm, located about eight miles (13km) off the coast of Wick in the far north, it can generate enough energy to power 450,000 homes. The £2.65bn Beatrice project, which involves 84 huge turbines, came fully online in May 1019 on time and £100m under budget.

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10 facts about offshore wind…

  1. Offshore Wind Resources Are Abundant: Offshore wind has the potential to deliver large amounts of clean, renewable energy to fulfil the electrical needs of cities along coastlines

2. Offshore Wind Turbines Can Be Extremely Tall: In order to capture the abundant wind resources available offshore, offshore turbines can be over 500 ft tall with blades the length of a football field

3. Offshore Wind Components Are Getting Larger: Offshore wind turbine components are transported by ships and barges, reducing some of the logistical challenges that land-based wind components encounter, such as narrow roadways or tunnels.

4. Offshore Wind Farms Use Undersea Cables to Transmit Electricity to the Grid: Electricity produced by offshore wind turbines travels back to land through a series of cable systems that are buried in the sea floor.

5. The Majority of Offshore Wind Resources Are in Deep Waters: It is unclear whether any significant harm is done to birds by onshore wind. It is crucial to get a handle at an early stage on whether there is any serious harm to marine biodiversity as we embark on building multi-gigawatt offshore wind farms and other energy infrastructure in the sea.

Offshore Wind Turbines
Wind power broke records during the ‘beast from the east’
Image: Peter Byrne/PA

6. Offshore Wind Turbines Can Float: Several companies are developing innovative floating offshore wind platforms for use in deep waters. Three kinds of floating platforms are spar-buoy, tension leg platform, and semi-submersible.

7. Offshore Wind is Right on Time: Offshore winds are typically stronger during the day. Most land-based wind resources are stronger at night, when electricity demands are lower.

The world’s largest offshore wind farm
World’s largest offshore wind farm, the Juncker Plan has allowed the UK to invest in offshore wind power | Image: NHD-INFO

8. Offshore Wind Resources are near people: Millions of people live within reach of power from offshore wind

9. Offshore Wind is Here To Stay: Offshore wind projects are in progress all over the world.

10. The UK is the world-leader in offshore wind: With huge potential to continue expanding and contributing towards electricity sourced from renewables. It’s a comparatively new industry in the maritime sector and the scale at which it’s growing is unprecedented.


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