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Floating wind farms just got a step closer to prime time

Jordan O'Brien

Jordan O'Brien

Contributing Editor
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Floating Wind Turbine

Floating wind farms are seen as key to helping the world reach its goal of net zero, and thanks to a competition backed by the Scottish Government, the technology is closer to prime time than ever before. 

The Floating Wind Technology Acceleration Competition saw a range of projects compete for funding from the Scottish Government, with eight projects eventually being successful. Those winning innovations include novel methods of monitoring and reducing mooring line loads and a new modular lifting solution for offshore component exchange. 

Each winning project received a share of the £1 million fund along with industry guidance to undertake a range of activities, from desktop studies to offshore demonstration.

Over the past 12 months, the funding has enabled the innovators to accelerate the development of their designs and, in some cases, manufacture and test prototype products. One technology is now a commercially available product, whilst others have secured additional funding for larger scale testing or are actively pursuing opportunities for commercial scale demonstration.

The Floating Wind Technology Acceleration Competition (FLW TAC) was designed and run by the Carbon Trust’s Floating Wind Joint Industry Project (Floating Wind JIP), the collaborative floating wind research and development initiative between the Carbon Trust and 15 leading international offshore wind developers. The competition was designed to find innovations with the potential to address four key industry challenge areas that need to be overcome to commercialise floating wind. These priority areas, which were identified in Phase 1 of the Floating Wind JIP, are: monitoring and inspection, mooring systems, heavy lift maintenance and tow to port maintenance.

Home to the world’s first floating wind farm (Hywind Scotland), Scotland is already a leading market for floating offshore wind and will continue to be an important region for both demonstration and commercial scale projects. 

The FLW TAC innovation projects have the potential to reduce the cost of building and operating these farms. Once commercialised, the manufacturing of several of the technologies could be supported by Scotland’s supply chain. This will help to increase local content of Scottish offshore wind projects and support local businesses to diversify into low carbon markets, in line with the recent recommendations of the Just Transition Commission.

Floating wind farms have received significant backing from the UK Government, while the International Energy Agency has said that floating turbines could provide enough electricity to power the US, Europe and Japan

Michael Matheson, cabinet zero for Net Zero and Energy, said, “Scotland has some of the best wind resources in the world, which will support our transition to becoming a net-zero economy by 2045. We have an ambitious target to generate up to 11 GW through offshore wind by 2030 – enough to power the equivalent more than 8 million homes – and floating offshore wind technology will play an important role in achieving this.  

“Overcoming technological challenges to commercial scale deployment of the floating wind sector will be vital to ensure its continuing growth, which is why I am delighted that the Scottish Government could work alongside the Carbon Trust to support the Floating Wind Technology Acceleration Competition. The eight projects that have been developed over the past year demonstrate how technological innovation will support Scotland’s energy transition. I wish each project continued success and hope the competition inspires further innovative solutions to be developed to support our just transition to net-zero.”

Jan Matthiesen, director, Offshore Wind, the Carbon Trust added, “Floating wind has the potential to make a significant contribution to decarbonisation efforts around the world. The acceleration of technologies to overcome identified challenges is crucial to scaling up capacity cost effectively. It has been exciting to see the progress these technologies and companies have made over the last year, and we look forward to seeing them reach their full potential.” 

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