With governments around the world and the global community focussed on exactly how we will address the climate crisis now is a good time to consider the role floating offshore technologies will play in the pathway to Net Zero.

Whilst offshore winds in shallow waters have been harnessed by fixed bottom wind turbines the wind and wave energy in deep water remains largely unharnessed and represents around 80% of the exploitable energy resources of our oceans.

Floating foundations offer a game changing technology in harnessing ocean energy

The Climate Change Committee has updated its guidance around the role that offshore wind will need to play in delivering Net Zero. Whilst UK Government has already set a target of 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 the current guidance suggests that the UK will need around 100GW of offshore wind by 2050 to deliver Net Zero and up to 50% of that target might be delivered through floating wind.

That represents a huge challenge for the sector but one that it is well equipped to deliver.

Bringing new and innovative technology through to scale means that technologies must be manufactured and deployed on an entirely commercial basis. This requires competition and large-scale equipment manufacturers to engage with project development partners. Projects must work financially and have adequate access to capital, insurance and warranties.

Comparisons can be drawn with the development of fixed onshore and offshore wind. Renewable electricity generation in the UK outperformed fossil fuels for the first year ever in 2020 and fixed onshore and offshore wind provided more than half of the country’s renewable electricity last year. Fixed offshore wind has rapidly become a fully commercialised product. The UK floating wind sector is on the brink of commercialisation and scale and is poised to expand rapidly over the coming years.

The UK is well positioned to benefit from a first mover advantage

The UK is already a world leader when it comes to floating offshore wind. The world’s first floating offshore wind farm was deployed here in the UK in 2017. The knowledge we bring from oil and gas, subsea engineering and deployment of fixed offshore wind puts us in an extremely strong position.

Indeed, our own flexible floating platform technology represents the only solution of its type that can be configured to harness wind and wave energy either as a combined solution or on their own in deep water. The nature of our best-in-class modular platform design and the fact that it can be manufactured from local content helps reduce the costs of manufacture and deployment by supporting a local logistics model. The inherent stability of the design and ease of operation reduces maintenance and ongoing operating costs whilst optimum energy capture across wind, wave or combined wind and wave drives efficient energy production. These benefits provide utility scale developers maximum flexibility between reducing cost and increasing local economic benefits, whilst in parallel accelerating farm deployment at scale.

With large scale projects less than 8 years away floating offshore wind has the potential to be ‘subsidy free’ by 2030. That sits alongside a backdrop of constructive engagement and partnership between industry, Government and other stakeholders where the lessons learnt from the deployment of fixed bottom offshore wind are used to accelerate the development of floating offshore wind at scale. Yes, there are plenty of challenges ahead, but collaboration and communication will in part help address those challenges. To that end Marine Power Systems have joined a consortium of major UK and US partners led by DNV, a world leading consultancy and advisor to the marine industry, to investigate the application of ‘wake steering’ to further optimise power output in floating offshore wind farms.

Towards both economic and environmental sustainability

UK waters and especially the deeper waters to be found to the west of the country are well suited to exploiting floating offshore wind and many of the skills and experience we have developed from North Sea oil and gas are directly transferrable into the deployment of large scale floating offshore wind projects. The industry has the potential to deliver £43.6bn in UK gross value add (GVA) by 2050, creating more than 29,000 jobs in the process. Many areas of the world, such as Japan and the west coast of America, are also surrounded by deep waters and it has been estimated that the value of global floating wind projects that are planned or under development amount to a capital expenditure of over $100 billion in the period up to 2035 alone.

It is an incredibly exciting time for the sector and floating technologies will play a critical role, both in the UK and overseas, on the pathway to Net Zero. Here in the UK we are in a very strong position and not only will floating offshore technologies help us address the climate crisis but also provide a huge benefit and return on investment for the UK economy.

References

Industrial leadership – unlocking the UK’s floating wind potential, ORE, Catapult (2021)
Global Floating wind market and forecast report, Quest Floating Wind Energy (2021)
A call for evidence on the potential of marine energy projects in Great Britain, RenewableUK (2020)