Floating wind turbine in Europe heralds ‘new era’

Source: By Heather Richards, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, October 21, 2019

The first floating wind turbine in continental Europe launched from a Spanish port today bound for a location 12 miles from the Portuguese coastline.

Industry proponents say the launch represents another step in proving technology that can successfully unmoor the offshore wind sector. Once operating, the pilot project will be the second floating offshore wind farm in the world, following Equinor ASA’s Hywind Scotland project that launched in 2017.

“We now mark the beginning of a new era, where floating wind enables true globalization of offshore wind and firmly establishes this industry as the renewable energy source with the highest growth for the coming decades,” said João Metelo, CEO of Principle Power Inc., one of the companies leading the project.

The WindFloat Atlantic platform is one of three that will be transported to the wind farm location over the next few months. It’s comprised of a triangle of three connected buoys, with the turbine placed on one of the three angles.

The three-turbine farm — a joint project of several European firms — would have an installed capacity of 25 megawatts, enough power to serve an average of 60,000 energy users, according to the company.

In contrast to traditional offshore wind farms, the Windfloat Atlantic platform and turbine is installed in harbor and then transported to its final location via tugboats, a process proponents say cuts development costs.

The nascent U.S. offshore wind industry lags behind Europe in installed wind capacity. Block Island, a pilot project installed off the Rhode Island coast in 2016, is the only operating offshore wind facility in the United States.

But a host of proposals are in development following increased leasing of wind areas, state policy promises in the Northeast to buy offshore wind power and falling costs of developing offshore wind in Europe.

Floating technology has not been a feature of the U.S. projects planned along the Eastern Seaboard, but it’s a likely necessity for a potential California offshore wind market where deeper waters make drilling turbines to the seafloor more difficult.

Tim Charters, vice president of government affairs for the National Ocean Industries Association, said the Windfloat Atlantic project is proving the technology’s growing viability.

“This proof of concept gives us confidence that the American market for offshore floating wind is ready to move forward today,” he said.

The Windfloat Atlantic project is a joint venture of the Spanish power company EDP Renewables, the French utility Engie, the oil and gas firm Repsol SA and the Portuguese offshore wind company Principle Power.