Turning point for Ideol and floating wind

FRANCE: The inauguration today of Floatgen -- a Vestas 2MW turbine on Ideol's ring-shaped concrete platform -- in the port of St-Nazaire marks a "turning point" for floating wind as the sector prepares to enter commercial deployment, according to Ideol CEO Paul de la Guérivière.

The turbine has been installed on Ideol's Floatgen platform (pic credit: BW Ideol/V Joncheray)

When commissioned, probably early next year, Floatgen will also mark a milestone as France's first operating offshore wind turbine of any kind.

And for Ideol, the turbine is the first real-size demonstration of its innovative "damping pool" concept.

Its floater is "the simplest, most compact and designed to be the most competitive on the market", the company claimed.

Seeing the turbine on the floater for the first time "gives a good perspective of the small size of the floater compared to the turbine", de la Guérivière noted.

Aside from the platform design, Floatgen features a number of other innovative solutions, from the composition of the concrete and its construction to the nylon mooring lines. 

The consortium — comprising Ideol, Ecole Centrale Nantes, Bouygues Travaux Publics, Stuttgart University, Fraunhofer-IWES, RSK Group of UK and Zabala of Spain — has already learned much from Floatgen, said de la Guérivière. 

Among other things, Ideol has optimised some areas of the design and the construction method. At the same time it is building its supply chain in preparation for mass production, all with an eye to driving costs down.

In this regard, floating wind is already benefiting from the rapid fall in prices seen in fixed-foundation projects since around 80% of the costs are the same, de la Guérivière states.

The key driver is the increasing size of the wind turbine, and this is where the Ideol solution "comes into its own because it is very compact and doesn't increase in the same ratio as turbine size increases," he explains. Ideol's floater can be adapted for turbines up to 15MW. 

The next stage for Floatgen is a month of pre-commissioning at the quayside, before being towed to the SEM-REV test site 12km offshore for installation, as soon as there is a suitable weather window. The whole process should take around ten days. 

Then follows at least two years of tests. Ideol will be monitoring the floater behaviour as well as trialing different strategies for turbine control, operation and maintenance and optimising production, among other things.

In the meantime, the company is building a steel floater in Japan in partnership with Hitachi Zosen. Commissioning should take place next summer, equipped with Aerodyn's SCDnezzy 3MW turbine.

Offering concrete and steel versions ensures Ideol will "always be the cheapest option in each market," de la Guérivière said. 

Next up should be four concrete floaters for EolMed's 25MW project in the Mediterranean. All being well, Bouygues Travaux Publics will start building the floaters in the second half of 2019.

Ideol also has a pipeline of projects in early stage development in the UK, Ireland and Taiwan and is looking at various other options in Japan.

But first of all, the French demonstrator will be under close scrutiny by both the consortium and potential customers.