Floating wind turbines needed to meet UK offshore wind targets

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Continued, large-scale growth of offshore wind power will require a significant contribution from new floating turbines, according to a joint report from trade associations RenewableUK and Scottish Renewables: Floating Wind – The UK Industry Ambition.

Indeed floating technology is necessary for the UK to reach its net zero carbon emissions target by 2050 and to fulfil Scotland’s commitment to achieve this by 2045, says the report. 

The industry estimates that floating wind could support 17,000 UK jobs by 2050, particularly in coastal communities in England, Scotland and Wales, while also delivering £34bn of economic activity. 

To date, most offshore wind has been built using solid foundations directly attached to the seabed. In deeper waters, this is not an effective solution so the industry is adapting technology from North Sea oil and gas rigs, where floating platforms are tethered to the seabed. The world’s first floating offshore wind farm, Hywind, was installed in 2017 off the coast of Peterhead in Scotland and another, Kincardine, is under construction in Scottish waters. 

The study suggests that the government should use the Contract for Difference auction framework to create a specific pot of funding for innovative technologies like floating wind. This would secure an increase in new capacity from 32 MW now towards 2 GW by 2030, potentially making floating wind cost- competitive by that date. 

The report also calls for possible sites to be made available all around the UK, and for government and industry to invest jointly in new infrastructure supporting the development of floating wind as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy. It also highlights the fact that, thanks to its global lead in this technology, the UK is in a unique position to export floating wind worldwide to emerging markets with deep-water coastlines, such as China, Japan, Portugal, South Korea and the US. 

Meanwhile, Scotland’s wider offshore wind sector would increase eightfold under plans put forward by a new group – the Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council. The Council aims to lead and support the industry, boost the local content of projects and increase jobs in line with the Sector Deal signed between industry and the UK government in March. 

Scotland currently has around 1 GW of operational offshore wind, which would increase to 8 GW – enough to power the equivalent of 5.2mn households, more than double the number in Scotland – by 2030 under the Council’s goal. 

Moving to connection technology, ABB has been selected by energy companies SSE Renewables and Norway’s Equinor to supply its high-voltage direct current (HVDC) Light converter systems to connect what will become the world’s largest offshore wind farms in the Dogger Bank region of the North Sea to the UK transmission network. ABB will supply the converter systems, while Aibel will deliver two HVDC offshore converter platforms. 

Last, the new operations and maintenance building for East Anglia’s largest offshore wind farm to date has officially opened its doors. Construction of the building began in July 2018, part of a £25mn investment made by ScottishPower Renewables into the Port of Lowestoft. 

Today the site is the home of the East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm, a joint venture between ScottishPower Renewables and Macquarie’s Green Investment Group, supporting the day-to-day operations including marine coordination, specialist offices and warehousing. The building will be the base for up to 100 full-time employees, including engineers and technicians, for the 30-plus year lifespan of the wind farm. 

Photo: Warren Page & ScottishPower Renewables

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