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The Future is Floating

In our latest #RUKGOW19 blog, Sebastian Bringsværd, Head of Hywind Development for Equinor, discusses the potential for floating offshore wind in the UK and beyond.

Sebastian Bringsværd, Head of Hywind Development, Equinor

The ocean covers around 70% of the world’s surface and is an under-utilised resource for energy and economic growth. Close to 80% of the resource potential is in deep waters. That’s ideal for floating offshore wind power.

In Europe, offshore wind already has a strong foothold with close to 15GW installed capacity. Globally, the potential is to reach more than 100GW by 2030. Of this, floating offshore wind is estimated to constitute 10% of the market, potentially powering 12 million homes in 2030.

Floating wind holds the key to an inexhaustible resource potential. Until recently, development has been confined to the drawing board, but with an increase in global investment and collaboration, technology is beginning to create solutions that will continue to drive down costs and improve efficiency. Today, the technology has reached a tipping point in maturity, and we are witnessing a rapid acceleration in growth—just as we have seen in other wind and renewable technologies.

There is a substantial opportunity for the UK in developing floating offshore wind and a supply chain that can serve an emerging global market. This will create industrial growth and local jobs. Early deployment is critical to make floating offshore wind competitive and secure the UK’s industry leadership. As demonstrated by ORE Catapult, floating wind could support the UK offshore wind supply chain with 49% - 65% lifetime content for UK projects and 6% -10% of the global market. It will provide jobs and retain skills for those currently in the oil and gas sector.

At Equinor, we believe floating wind has the potential to compete and further outcompete fixed offshore wind, on both cost and installed capacity within the next decade, and onwards. Through access to the best wind resources with less environment impact and more flexibility than competing renewable technologies, we believe floating wind is the next wave in renewable energy.

As argued by RenewableUK, the UK’s existing leadership in offshore energy makes UK waters ideal for this new technology, which has huge international potential as other countries seek to take advantage of the renewables boom.

credit: Equinor

Through the government's support to develop Hywind Scotland, the world’s first fully-operational floating wind farm, the UK and Scotland are at the forefront of the development of this exciting new technology. This floating offshore wind park, installed 25 km off the coast of Aberdeen in 2017, has five floating turbines with a total capacity of 30 MW. Relative to its size, the farm is operating very well and has proved stable enough to withstand strong winds and storms. During its first year of operation, the average capacity factor of Hywind was 56%, significantly exceeding expectations. At maximum capacity, the wind farm’s turbines can produce enough energy to power 20,000 homes at once.

These are exciting times and with an ambition to become a world developer in floating wind, we are fully committed to making floating wind a competitive renewable energy source.

Equinor is therefore proud to be part of the new industry group working to develop a vision for floating offshore wind in the UK, making it play a key role in delivering UK's sector deal and decarbonisation goals.



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