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Next-gen turbines well-suited for floating farms – but other installation challenges remain

Professional Engineering

Turbines are transported to Hywind in Scotland, the world's first floating wind farm (Credit: Shutterstock)
Turbines are transported to Hywind in Scotland, the world's first floating wind farm (Credit: Shutterstock)

Large next-generation wind turbines will only need “minor modifications” for installation on floating substructures, a new report has found, providing a welcome boost for the promising renewable technology.

The report, from the Carbon Trust’s Floating Wind Joint Industry Project (JIP), includes a study by Danish engineering consultants Ramboll on turbine requirements and foundation scaling.  

Apart from turbine towers and controllers, the study found that only minor modifications would likely be needed for future turbines, and that the required relative primary steel, secondary steel and mooring mass would decrease for larger turbines. 

The Carbon Trust forecast 70GW of floating wind capacity installed by 2040. The technology enables offshore wind turbine installation in deeper waters not suitable for bottom-fixed turbines, unlocking new areas for renewable energy generation. Pilot and demonstration projects have shown the potential for similar or even higher yields from floating turbines compared to bottom-fixed projects, as they can be situated in locations with more wind. 

Technological challenges remain, however, and the new report investigated several hurdles. New vessels and cranes will be needed for offshore heavy lifting, for example.

“The limited availability and high cost of suitable floating heavy lift vessels in the market... is a barrier to cost-effectively undertaking operations offshore,” a Carbon Trust announcement said. “There is a need for vessels capable of undertaking the required heavy lift operations, or alternative lifting solutions, such as climbing crane technology.” 

Other challenges include high voltage dynamic cables to transport power from floating installations, with some already in development. There is “no quick win” for monitoring and inspection, the organisation warned, but it said techniques such as a digital twins and unmanned vessels could support cost-effective solutions. 

“I am sure that floating offshore wind will play a crucial role in our future renewables generation, and in helping us achieve a green recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse. The Scottish government funded the JIP.  

“The findings of this report from phase two of the project are very much welcomed. It is particularly encouraging to see the significant growth projected for the floating offshore wind industry in the coming decades, and we are keen to explore early opportunities associated with the ScotWind leasing round of Crown Estate Scotland, the electrification of production platforms in the oil and gas sector and for production of ‘green hydrogen’ for use in transport, heating and industry. The development of floating wind offers a massive opportunity for sustainable growth of the Scottish economy while realising our net-zero ambitions.” 

Floating wind offers technology and supply chain investment opportunities, said Dan Kyle Spearman, manager of the JIP.  

“Floating wind offers technology and supply chain investment opportunities. We expect that it 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.” 

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. 


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