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EU’s pioneering floating wind turbine expectations

Image: Damen FLOW-SV 400 Concept by Damen
Floating wind has gained further momentum with proof that the European Union’s FloatGen facility, off the coast of Brittany, has run at maximum power more than 60% of the time over a three-month period.

The figure of running at maximum power of 60% of the time is  significantly higher than bottom-fixed installations, however, there is a significant shortage of suitable sector support vessels so far.

The FloatGen facility, comprising a 2MW Vestas turbine mated with a ‘damping pool’, BW Ideol, that reduces the impact of heavy swells and high seas in stormy conditions, has affirmed findings from Equinor’s floating wind facility, the 30MW Hywind Scotland wind park. This was commissioned in 2017 and has demonstrated a performance factor of more than 57%.  

Commenting on the data, BW Ideol’s Chief Executive Paul de la Guérivière said: “FloatGen – one of the few floating wind turbines currently in operation across the globe – continues to deliver outstanding results in terms of reliability, efficiency, and production. It keeps on validating the merits of our unique floating offshore wind technology, even in the harshest environments.

“Such repeated performance, high availability and consequently high capacity factor underlines the benefits of floating wind and its ability to capture the best possible wind resources without depth constraints, contributing to a much needed energy resilience in the process,” he added.

The drive for floating wind development has gathered momentum in Europe over the last 12 months as energy security climbs the agenda in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago. The climate change emergency is adding extra impetus.

The FloatGen findings have far-reaching implications for shipping’s offshore sector. There is already a dramatic shortage of large offshore wind installation vessels and few are capable of handling the vast components required by the floating wind sector.

In the US, offshore wind has become a top priority for the Biden Administration and many regions, particularly off the deepwater west coast, are unsuitable for bottom-fixed installations. However, although there are now several Jones Act-compliant vessels under construction, there is a dire shortage of installation and support vessels for both the early fixed-bottom facilities, and the floating installations of the future.

Earlier this week, Netherlands-based ship design and construction group, Damen, released design details of a floating wind installation vessel, FLOW-SV. The highly sophisticated 150m ship, ready for methanol propulsion, has a maximum pull strength of 1,000 tonnes for embedding anchors around each turbine, two remotely operated vehicles for surveying and checking the security of anchor groundings, and a range of propulsion and component handling capabilities to meet the floating wind installation challenge.