Floating offshore wind is an emerging technology with an exciting future – providing access to abundant wind power over deeper waters than bottom-fixed turbines. But how can countries harness the potential of this technology to reduce their carbon emissions and meet ambitious climate goals?
In episode one of this special edition documentary podcast, we examine the vast potential that floating wind technology has as part of the global energy transition and explore the cross-industry collaboration that is enabling rapid progress to be made. We also address the challenges of implementation and some of the barriers that must be overcome if the potential of this technology is to be maximized.
Join us as we talk to industry leaders at the very forefront of design, manufacturing, and implementation, including representatives from Equinor, Siemens Gamesa and Eolfi (a Shell company). From discussing the early headway that is being made in Europe, we also go on to speak to representatives from the Japanese Wind Power Association (JWPA) and South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Company (DSME) to learn about major plans for the technology’s important role in South East Asia.
To gain a holistic view of development and global implementation, DNV GL’s Group President and CEO Remi Eriksen, and Vice President of Technology & Innovation Lucy Craig, give us their input on how this exciting and emerging sector is giving access to new markets around the world and positioning itself as a major contender in the future energy mix.
In episode two of this documentary, published on Thursday 25 February, we take a closer look at the specific roles of technology and policy in driving development forwards. Tune in next week.
NARRATOR Hello and welcome to this special episode of DNV GL’s Talks Energy podcast. With the Paris Agreement strengthening the global response to climate change, countries around the world are facing increasing pressure to phase out carbon intensive fuels in favour of clean energy. In this two-part documentary, we explore the emerging and exciting world of floating offshore wind power, the markets paving the way, and the challenges we must overcome if we’re going to commercialize this growing technology in time to meet targets for global warming reduction. We speak to a range of guests from organizations across many sectors that are leading the way in development of floating wind to help us answer the question, what is the potential for this fast growing, renewable energy technology? We hope you enjoy the episode.
Wind power has played a key role in the clean energy revolution, with global capacity expected to increase tenfold in little over a generation. And while falling hardware prices and growing confidence from investors has seen onshore wind farms become the more popular and cost-effective solution for now, fixed offshore technology is maturing at a significant pace and will become a key component in the new energy mix. But as fixed offshore wind turbines need to be sited in relatively shallow water, capacity will always be limited. To access the potential of wind power further offshore, a new approach is needed. That new approach has arrived in the form of floating offshore wind.
SEBASTIAN BRINGSVÆRD If you really start with the basics, you have onshore wind. Everybody’s seen that, knows what it is. And it’s a turbine on top of a tower and it produces energy from the wind resources.
SEBASTIAN BRINGSVÆRD And then you go offshore and then you have two alternatives; have a monopile or a jacket. And it is connected to the seabed. So, basically, it’s a standstill structure that produces wind for 25, 30 years, whatever lifetime of the turbine. And then you go one step further out and you say, if you reach about 50, 60, 70 metres water depth, you struggle with having a bottom-fixed structure. It becomes too deep, it becomes too costly, and it doesn’t make sense. So, from about 50, 60 metres and onwards, you can utilize floating wind technology. And basically, that is the floating structure. It’s known from oil and gas, either you can do it by a semi-submersible, you can do it by a spar, or you can do it by a tension leg, a TLP technology. Different technology but do the same. It’s floating, it is connected to the seabed by anchors, by moorings, but the structure in itself is floating.
REMI ERIKSEN With our latest Energy Transition Outlook, we predict that offshore floating wind will be 20% of all offshore wind resources by 2050. That implies a capacity of 250 gigawatts by the middle of this century. With each doubling of installed capacity, we will see offshore wind costs falling by 16%. That is something called a cost learning curve. For any given technology, costs tend to decline at a constant rate with each doubling of installed capacity. This is driven by technology improvements, more effective manufacturing, economies of scale, broader supply chain efficiencies and, not least, competition. We expect nine capacity doublings between now and 2050 for floating offshore wind, which will see costs fall to around €40 per megawatt hour. Most of these doublings in capacity will take place over the next decade, and that is when we will see most of the cost benefits realized. A good bet would be to say that within ten years, offshore floating wind will be close to half of today’s cost levels.
SEBASTIAN BRINGSVÆRD Hywind Scotland is paving the way for a lot of new floating wind projects globally.
SEBASTIAN BRINGSVÆRD It’s an installed capacity of 30 megawatt. It’s powering roughly 20,000 UK homes and it has one of the best capacity factors in the UK, meaning that it is actually one of the best performing assets in the UK, regardless of fixed or floating. This has been the first floating wind farm in the world, and that is important for us. It is also a kind of an innovation for us in the sense that we are testing out a way of controlling the wind farm. We have a motion pitch controller included in this, and that makes the structure move and behave in a way that is optimal, both for production but, even more importantly, for the lifetime of the structure.
SEBASTIAN BRINGSVÆRD I think it proves the concept technically, but it also proves it commercially. And now the whole game is about mobilizing the industry for scale. So, in that context, I think Hywind Scotland becomes extremely important outside the project, both to make it bankable and trustworthy for investors and for suppliers and for governments.
LUCY CRAIG In the near term, we see that it will be Europe leading the way. So, in France, we are expecting four pilot sites to be operational by 2023. The French government have announced additional tenders which will be coming up over the next three years. Norway also is opening up for applications for offshore sites and one of them is ideally suited for floating. And the UK has two offshore floating wind farms, and we see more support for floating offshore wind coming from the UK government. In the medium term though, we see other markets opening up, the US, Japan, and Korea. In future decades going out to 2050, up to 50% of the floating wind capacity will be coming from Asia-Pacific countries.
JANG-JIN KIM There are several floating wind facilities implemented in Europe and North America. And also Korea is emerging to this market.
NARRATOR That’s Jang-Jin Kim, Vice President of the Offshore Design Division at South Korea’s DSME, which describes themselves as the world’s premium shipbuilding and offshore contractor. In Korea and the rest of Asia, shipyards are set to play a major role in production.
NARRATOR Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, deep waters and strong winds make Japan one of the most attractive countries in the world for commercializing floating wind energy. While it recognizes that it must further develop its fixed-bottom wind industry before floating wind can accelerate beyond pilots, Japan has major plans for floating wind tied to its target of carbon neutrality by 2050. Jin Kato, Vice President of the Japanese Wind Power Association, told us…
JIN KATO After 2030, we believe introduction of the floating type will be in full swing. And we expect floating wind power, more than 1 gigawatt, to be introduced every year by 2040. We have a small scale in Japan, so that is why we really keep watching the progress of the demonstration testing in Europe.
NARRATOR So, there is widespread global optimism over the potential for floating wind generated power, with all eyes on those first projects in Europe to provide a model for implementation further afield. But to reach full potential and achieve commercialization for this conceptual technology, numerous challenges need to be overcome. One of the main obstacles is the high cost of the technology, especially the foundations, the part which floats on the water’s surface, given this is a brand new way of mounting a tower and turbine.
JESPER MØLLER The cost of foundations is an extremely important driver in whether floating will kick off big time or not. And we see that there are several different ways where we can drive down costs on floating foundations.
NARRATOR That’s Jesper Møller, Head of Offshore Concepts and solutions at Siemens Gamesa. The design and manufacturing major were consultants and technology suppliers on both Hywind projects in the North Sea.
JESPER MØLLER In order to make sure that we see real projects materializing on floaters, we see it as important that we look at the products that we have in our portfolio so that we utilize turbines that have a track record, that have proven themselves to work well on bottom-fixed and that we find ways of making sure that the same turbines will function equally well on floaters as they do on bottom-fixed without major changes to the design. The challenge is to make a combination of turbine and tower and foundation that is economically attractive, that is presenting a proper business case. We are not too worried about making a turbine work on a floater. The question is how much effort should we put into it? How much steel should we put into the tower, how much steel should we put into the foundation in order for it to work?
NARRATOR Technology and R & D is one thing, but manufacturing capability and capacity is another. As we’ve heard, shipyards will play a major role in Asia, but each country around the world will have its own specific requirements, as Jesper tells us.
JESPER MØLLER Because if you look at how many shipyards there are around just Europe, it’s not a high number. And compared to the expectations that we see, having to meet the goals that the European Commission put out recently, we need much more than the available shipyards that there are around.
NARRATOR So, we can see then the challenges won’t be universal. Certain factors are likely to have much more of a bearing on some regions of the world over others. One of the companies with a holistic view over capability and implementation is oil and gas major, Shell. In 2019, Shell acquired French offshore developer, EOLFI, which has pioneered the floating wind sector in France. Its Business Integration Manager and Commercial Director, Stephane Cicolella, told us…
STEPHANE CICOLELLA Each country and each site is different. And so, as a developer, you have to adapt to the local environment while not making your solution too tailor-made, otherwise you will see your costs inflate again. So, certainly, there are things which are working everywhere, but not everything. And so, it’s really difficult to have something which is really dedicated to each site. It’s not going to work from an economic standpoint.
NARRATOR Providing an example of regional considerations…
STEPHANE CICOLELLA In California, one of the major issues is reconnection, of course, but this has in fact a limited impact on your floating concept, while in Asia, you will often have to deal with a typhoon issue which is going to have a significant impact on your engineering design, farm layout, cost of maintenance, etc. So, one thing is sure. As a developer, you will not be able to do everything on your own everywhere or on the whole, and partnering with the right local players will be an important aspect of things too.
NARRATOR We’ll hear more from Stephane in episode two of this documentary. But he touches here on one of the most important factors in moving floating wind towards commercialization, the need for standardization. There are currently over 40 floater concepts under development, but it’s clear that consolidation will occur as projects are scaled up globally. For Sebastian and Equinor, standardization will be important.
SEBASTIAN BRINGSVÆRD We’ve now been in a phase for roughly ten years where technology has emerged and developed and there’s been a lot of innovation and a lot of different players and actors, smaller companies, bigger companies, and that has been extremely important to get the floating technology up and running. Now, I think it is time to see more consolidation, meaning that we need to agree on some core principles or some core concepts or design principles for those concepts to be able to get to the scale where we see the necessary cost reductions. The logic of that is that you cannot have five, six, seven different types of semi-submersibles. You cannot have 20 companies competing for slightly different designs, etc. You will have to agree on some core principles. Exactly how many and how that’s going to look, that’s a different question.
NARRATOR So then, there is currently a huge amount of variation in design and potential approaches where floating wind is concerned. Part of DNV GL’s role will be to help the industry move towards more standardized solutions in order to accelerate projects and gain stakeholder confidence. As Remi Eriksen tells us…
REMI ERIKSEN As we know from bottom-fixed offshore wind, standardization and certification has played a vital role in its development. Certification against an agreed standard is the most trusted framework to deliver stakeholder confidence. And there are obvious reasons why this should apply all the more to floating offshore wind, where even more collaboration and integration across domains are needed. There is a very complex supply chain at work with the involvement of turbine manufacturers, shipyards, oil and gas contactors, cable manufacturers, and substation providers. But a less obvious reason for standardization is that many governments are specifying required levels of local content to maximize the wider economic benefit to their country. As a result, while each player may be an expert in their traditional field, many will initially have limited or no experience in the specific application. So, standards and certification provide a recipe for multiple and sometimes inexperienced suppliers, helping them understand the tolerances they must work within. You can look at it as a common language for players from numerous industries to come together and create a thriving industry.
NARRATOR By using existing technology and experience, as we heard from Siemens Gamesa earlier, the risks associated with floating wind projects will come down, providing much needed confidence from both local and international investors. Remi agrees that utilizing existing offshore experience is critical.
NARRATOR And it looks as though that optimism is being felt across the board.
STEPHANE CICOLELLA The future for floating, I think it’s bright. I’m convinced it can play a significant role in helping countries gaining access to lower carbon emission options. There are a few fundamental obstacles yet to overcome to see if it stays at a niche level or if it becomes mainstream and, in fact, larger than bottom-fixed.
NARRATOR Concludes Shell’s Stephane Cicolella. So, despite there being many challenges for the industry to overcome in order to see largescale uptake in the near future, it’s clear that there is also significant potential, with countries around the world recognizing the benefits of using floating offshore wind as a new power source. With the benefit of input from some of the leading figures in driving floating offshore wind forwards, we’ve seen just what an impact it could deliver globally. Join us next week for episode two of this special documentary on floating offshore wind, where we look at the specific roles of technology…
NARRATOR And policy…
NARRATOR And discuss how stakeholders must work together in order to progress this important technology within the energy transition. To listen to more of our podcasts, visit dnvgl.com/talksenergy.