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⚡ "Whatever Floats Your Wind Turbine"

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Photo by Levan Badzgaradze | Unsplash
Host: Dana Perkins
Guest: Oliver Metcalfe | Head of Wind Research | BloombergNEF &
Luisa Amorim | Wind Analyst | BloombergNEF
Category: ⚡ Renewable Energy | Floating Offshore Wind

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[5:37] LA: "A floating wind project is made up of [...] similar [wind turbines] to what you see on onshore and traditional offshore wind projects. These turbines are sitting on top of the floating structure that is kept stable using a system of mooring lines, which are anchored to the seabed."

[6:51] OM: "The offshore wind industry as a whole has progressed incredibly fast over the last couple of decades. Costs have dropped around 60% since 2014 for those traditional bottom fixed projects. [...] But offshore wind also allows us now to install renewable energy projects with the same generating capacity as some of the biggest conventional power plants. But these are so far out at sea, they're almost invisible from shore."

[7:21] OM: "The problem is you can only install those traditional [offshore wind] projects in waters of around 60 to 70 meters deep, whereas you can install floating projects in waters up to 1,000 meters deep or even more. So that means you can search more areas to find the windiest spots with the most consistent wind speeds, so the turbines generate more electricity. But it also means in places that have really steep continental shelves, such as places like California, or the Mediterranean Sea, where the sea gets deep really quick."

[8:07] OM: "The first [floating wind] project of more than one turbine came online in 2017 off the coast of Scotland. It was built by a Norwegian oil company called Equinor. That was five turbines. But the sector still needs to see a lot of consolidation before we start to see scale. [...] The biggest operating project is the 50 megawatt Kincardine Scotland project, which has six turbines that was commissioned last year. Now, just for comparison, the biggest seabed fixed offshore wind project in the world is off the east coast of England, [which is] 1200 megawatts, 174 turbines. So we've got a long way to go until we hear the kind of scale that we're seeing with traditional offshore wind projects."

[14:31] OM: "According to our latest calculations, we never really expect floating wind projects to reach that cost parity with bottom fixed projects, not at least before [...] 2050. But that isn't to say that the two technologies really need to compete. [...] Costs vary significantly depending on the project site. So in some cases, there may be a floating project closer to shore that's cheaper than a bottom fixed one. [...] Also, there are lots of countries with limited space or maybe no space at all, where they can build one of these big industrial scale seabed fixed offshore wind projects. So if they want to use offshore wind to support their netzero goals, they're going to have to use floating wind turbines, even if they are more expensive."

[30:51] OM: "This decade is all about scale up, but we're not really expecting the large commercial scale projects to come online until 2028. So we still expect bottom fixed foundations to continue to be the dominant supporting structure all the way out to 2035. So we're still expecting bottom fixed foundations to make up around 95% of the global fleet by 2035. In our forecasts, floating wind does begin to take market share from 2027. So we're expecting six gigawatts operating by 2030, but that's going to shoot up to 25 gigawatts by 2035. So floating wind might not be looking too much at this decade, but we're really expecting a quick pickup in the first half of the 2030s."

[32:33] OM: "One of the benefits of looking at floating wind is that not only can you look for the windiest sites, but you can also start to look at more sites from an environmental perspective as well. So as part of the permitting process for any wind project, whether it's onshore offshore, bottom-fixed or floating, you have to carry out environmental studies to look at what the impact will be on marine mammals on birds as well. When you're looking at floating wind, you can look at vastly more sites, because you can look at more and more water depths, and deeper water depths. So that allows you to pick and choose where you build a project. So it hopefully will have the minimal environmental impact as well."

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

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🗓️ 09/30/2022
✅ Time saved: 39 min

Additional Links:
Article: "The Next Phase of Wind Power Growth in Five Charts" (BloombergNEF, 2022)