FloatGen floating wind pilot hits new heights in French Atlantic

Pioneering unit churns out almost 1GWh in February at capacity factor outstripping conventional bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines

FloatGen unit off La Turballe, western France  Photo: SEBASTIEN SALOM GOMIS/AFP/Getty Images/NTB scanpix

The pioneering FloatGen floating wind pilot in the French Atlantic Ocean has outreached production levels seen to date at the project, hitting a new record in February with over 920MWh of output for the month.

The 2MW unit, based around a Vestas turbine and ‘damping pool’ foundation from Ideol, also saw its highest-ever monthly capacity factor, 66.3%, a percentage significantly better than the average bottom-fixed offshore machine, which averages around 50%.

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“[This confirms the outstanding production and availability numbers recorded throughout 2019 … highlighting one of the fundamental arguments in favor of accelerating the commercial-scale deployment of floating offshore wind: taking full advantage of the best wind resources one can find further offshore and without any depth constraints,” said Ideol.

FloatGen’s 95.7% uptime last month, the company added, pointed to the technology’s “readiness for commercial-scale deployments, even in severe environments, wherever these may be in the world”.

“These figures further demonstrate the financial viabiilty of floating wind power and its potential to produce at levels that more often than not exceed traditional bottom-fixed, confirming what we are seeing at Hywind Scotland [in the Scottish North Sea] and on a site [off the west coast of France] that is on average much less windy than Hywind’s,” Ideol chief sales and marketing officer Bruno Geschier told Recharge.

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In January, Ideol reported that FloatGen, which is moored at the Sem-Rev test site off Western France, turned in record production through the second half of 2019, more than doubling the output churned out in its first six months of operation after installation.

Ideol is in one of four consortia currently building floating wind arrays off France that have been given the formal go-ahead by the European authorities.

The company has a second prototype installed off Japan, where last year it signed a memorandum of understanding with Japanese construction and civil engineering giant Taisei – the conglomerate responsible for many of the island nation’s major infrastructure projects, including the 2020 Olympic Stadium in Tokyo – to mass produce concrete versions of its floating foundation.

In the UK, it announced last year that it is tying up with Belgian offshore wind developer Elicio to develop projects off Scotland, with the pair currently preparing a bid for the ScotWind leasing round about to be launched by UK seabed landlord the Crown Estate.

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France has struggled to get steel in the water in developing its considerable offshore wind resource, with its lead-off award of large-scale bottom-fixed developments in 2012 becoming mired in regulatory delays and the first of those projects – the 480MW Saint-Nazaire offshore wind array – now due to enter service in 2023.

The French wind power association, FEE, has been lobbying the country’s government for several years to hold a 2GW tender targeting commercial-scale floating projects as a launch-pad to switching on as much as 6GW by 2030.

Analysts range widely in their 2030 global forecasts for floating wind, with estimates spread from as little as 6GW up to almost 19GW – with arrays in development in all major maritime regions and over 20GW of commercial-scale projects in early planning – and the build-out all influenced by how quickly levellised cost of energy numbers can be brought down to be competitive with conventional offshore wind. SOURCE

Equinor: Floating Wind Farms a Natural Fit for Oil and Gas Companies

The Norwegian energy giant on Thursday unveiled a new climate roadmap, including plans to rapidly grow its renewables fleet.

Equinor’s floating Hywind Tampen project will be built 140 kilometers from the Norwegian coast. (Credit: Equinor)

The cost of floating wind farms is on a steeper decline than that of traditional offshore wind, with the emerging sector increasingly attractive to oil and gas companies, said Sebastian Bringsværd, head of floating wind development at Norwegian energy giant Equinor.

After years of industry anticipation, the floating wind market is finally gaining momentum in a commercially meaningful way. The goal, Bringsværd said, is to scale floating projects up to a comparable level as traditional projects, which are often 500 megawatts or larger, taking advantage of offshore wind’s huge economies of scale.

Just a few years ago that was an “ambitious” vision,” Bringsværd said. “Now I see that’s very realistic.”

In its annual report released on Thursday, Equinor, among Europe’s largest oil producers, laid out a new climate roadmap to keep it in line with the Paris Climate Accord, including plans to transform into a “global offshore wind major.”

Equinor, among Europe’s largest oil producers, intends to grow its fleet of renewable energy projects tenfold by 2026, to 4-6 gigawatts, on the way to 12-16 gigawatts by 2035. The Norwegian company, majority owned by the government, also pledged to halve the carbon intensity of its energy products by 2050.

Within the renewables sphere, Equinor carved out an early leadership position in the emerging floating wind sector, completing the industry’s first full-scale project several years ago, the 30-megawatt Hywind Scotland.

ACS Group’s 50-megawatt Kincardine Bay floating project, also off the coast of Scotland, will go into operation later this year, setting a new industry benchmark. And Equinor recently gave the green light to its 88-megawatt Hywind Tampen project off the coast of Norway, which will power two of its drilling operations upon its scheduled completion in 2022.

Hywind Tampen is a “stepping stone,” Bringsværd said. “It’s providing the scale we need to prove the cost reduction curve — and it’s reducing our carbon footprint from our oil and gas production.”

“The figure the industry is aiming for is around €40 to €60 [$44 to $66] per megawatt-hour by 2030,” he added.

While still a very expensive option for renewable power today, hovering around $250 per megawatt-hour by some estimates, floating turbines promise to unlock areas for wind development in waters too deep for regular monopile or jacket foundations. Among the technology’s obvious benefits is the ability for projects to tap the excellent wind resource often found far from shore while avoiding any visual impact from land.

In Hywind Scotland’s first two years of operation, it achieved a capacity factor of 56 percent. By comparison, the average for a U.K. offshore wind farm in 2018 was around 40 percent, according to government figures. Many onshore wind farms are at 30 percent or lower, and solar averages less than that.

California, France, Scotland and South Korea are all promising markets for floating offshore wind, Bringsværd said.

Wood Mackenzie expects 350 megawatts of floating offshore wind in operation by 2022 at various demonstration projects, and up to 10 gigawatts by 2030 with the right policy frameworks in place. Europe currently has a total of less than 50 megawatts of floating wind installed.

Sebastian Bringsværd, Equinor’s head of floating wind development. (Credit: Equinor)

“In terms of timing, we are more than 10 years behind [fixed bottom offshore wind]; in terms of costs, we’re ahead,” Bringsværd told GTM.

Equinor is also investing in traditional offshore wind, having last year won a contract for its 816-megawatt Empire Wind project in New York, as well as in onshore renewables. In its annual report released this week, Equinor said it plans to transform into a “global offshore wind major,” aiming for 12 to 16 gigawatts of installed renewable capacity by 2035.

Floating wind’s crossover appeal

Equinor is not alone among major energy companies in focusing on floating wind’s potential.

“Experienced developers are starting to position themselves more aggressively in the floating industry by forging alliances and building up floating wind pipelines,” Rolf Kragelund, director of global offshore wind at Wood Mackenzie, wrote this week.

Among the recent collaborations is WindPlus, which includes Repsol, Engie, EDP and floating wind technology firm Principle Power. Shell recently bolstered its capabilities with the acquisition of the floating wind developer Eolfi.

“So far, the commercialization of floating wind has been hampered by a Catch-22, where developers argue that capacity is needed to reduce the cost of floating wind, while governments argue that cost declines are needed for governments to allocate capacity to floating wind,” Kragelund wrote.

But there are signs the impasse is starting to break. The ScotWind seabed leasing round, out later this year, will include a carve-out for floating projects in Scottish waters, and broader momentum is building for the U.K. to do the same through its contracts for difference program.

France is backing floating wind projects in a dedicated tender, at least partially prompted by the need to quell local opposition to near-shore turbines.

Meanwhile, EDP and Norwegian oil services firm Aker are exploring the development of a 500-megawatt floating wind complex off the coast of Ulsan, South Korea. The City of Ulsan would cooperate with the development of a waterside supply chain base. Equinor is part of a consortium eyeing a 200-megawatt project, Donghae 1, in the same region, with a potential commissioning date of 2024.

The U.K., in particular, has advantages both in historical deployment and its native supply chain, Bringsværd said. The technology that underlies floating wind is not especially new, and many of the competencies are an even stronger match for the existing oil and gas supply chain than with fixed-bottom offshore wind, he said. SOURCE