Floating wind to 'accelerate to 70GW by 2040'

Global floating wind capacity could grow from less than 100MW today to 10GW by 2030 and then to more than 70GW by 2040, but challenges remain, according to new analysis.

Just 73MW of floating wind capacity is currently online (pic credit: Ideol)

Most of this growth will be in Asia (31.8GW), with Europe a close second (28.2GW), and the remainder in US waters (9.8GW).

There is currently just 73MW of operational floating offshore wind capacity, according to the Carbon Trust, with 124MW due online by the end of the year.

However, the floating market can accelerate provided it has political commitment and a route to market, the agency stated in its latest report, released as part of its joint industry project (JIP) into the floating wind sector. Technological challenges will also need to be overcome, it stated.

Dan Kyle Spearman, manager of the Carbon Trust’s floating wind JIP, said: “We expect that floating wind will become a key sector for low carbon power generation and economic growth in geographies where deeper waters do not allow for bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines. 

“The time is now for the floating wind industry to look to pre-commercial and commercial projects to deliver the cost reduction necessary for the sector to compete with other renewable energy options.”

Next-generation turbines will need minor modifications to be fitted on floating rather than fixed-bottom foundations, according to engineering consultancy Ramboll, which investigated turbine requirements for the Carbon Trust report. These adaptations will mainly be in turbine towers and controller software.

Towers will face increased loads on floating platforms, while controller software will need to be modified to avoid negative damping, and improve motion characteristics and loads, as well as power production.

New vessels or alternative lifting solutions will also be needed as there is currently a limited availability of suitable floating heavy lift vessels in the market, according to heavy lifting specialists Seaway7. Suitable vessels are also prohibitively expensive, it added.

Seaway7 suggested that climbing crane technology could be an alternative lifting solution, but would need to be trialed and scaled-up before it is viable.

There remains a lack of suitable dynamic export cable products, but solutions are being developed, BPP reported.

The JIP is currently supporting five companies to develop these, but these products will face challenges unique to dynamic cables for floating wind farms rather than fixed-bottom installations. These challenges include modifying handling techniques for the cables as they will need to be heavier, stiffer and larger, and therefore less tolerant of twisting.

There are also no ‘quick win’ solutions for floating monitoring and inspection, according to subsea engineering firm Oceaneering.

Specifically, improvement is needed in data collection and its usage to inform and manage asset integrity for floating wind farms and, in particular, subsea assets. However, techniques such as a digital twin approach or unmanned vessels could support cost-effective solutions, Oceaneering added.