Insight Into Unique Project for Floating Offshore Wind Farm

Floating Offshore Wind Farm. Credit: University of Maine
The FLOWB programme will support the US’ growing floating offshore wind market and is backed by ORE Catapult, Innovate UK, the University of Maine and NREL

Because wind power is stronger at sea than on land, the development of offshore wind has skyrocketed in recent years. Traditionally, these are supported by fixed structures, which cannot be installed in deep or complex seabed locations.

However, this challenge has been overcome thanks to the progress of floating structures, which can support turbines atop and are secured via the likes of flexible anchors, chains or steel cables.

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What is offshore floating wind energy?

Despite sounding like a futuristic concept, floating wind turbines are operational around the world, though they are somewhat few and far between. Saying that, floating offshore wind farms are becoming an increasingly viable green energy solution, providing energy fit for mass consumption.

According to RenewableUK, 227MW of floating wind is fully operational across 14 projects in seven countries. The country boasting the most projects is Norway with 94MW across three projects, with the UK following behind with 80MW spanning two projects. Portugal secures third, with its one project facilitating 25MW.

Who are the leading floating wind companies?

ORE Catapult Dynamic Cables

A number of leading renewable energy companies, many of whom specialise in wind, have an established portfolio of floating wind farms or the technology which facilitates it. Among then are:

  • Siemens Gamesa

  • Vestas
  • GE
  • EDF
  • Mitsubishi
  • Brookfield Renewable Partners

Expanding the US floating offshore wind market with UK expertise

A unique project could expand the US market for innovative UK companies developing technology to support the growing floating offshore wind market in the US. The UK-US Floating Offshore Wind Supply Chain Innovation Bilateral (FLOWB) supply chain programme brings together the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and Innovate UK with US partners including University of Maine and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 

By working together, this group of entities will enable UK companies developing exportable technologies to team up with floating wind platform developers across the Atlantic, with them also able to benefit from up to a £1.5m (US$1.9m) funding pot.

Dr Stephen Wyatt, Director of Strategy and Emerging Technologies at ORE Catapult, said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity for companies in the UK to engage with floating offshore wind platform developers in the US — identifying technical and commercial gaps where they can work together and leverage the UK’s early floating supply chain experience. 

“UK companies will be able to support the leading floating wind developers in the US and both will benefit from shared learning in this expanding and dynamic area of offshore wind.”

The new UK-US collaboration encourages cross-geographical support and knowledge sharing, with US market expansion a secondary benefit that will help continue to accelerate the adoption of renewables and open up new opportunities.

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