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Floating Offshore Wind Provides New Opportunities in the European Energy System: Part 2

Tom James
Nov 18, 2021

Guidehouse Insights Windmill

This blog was coauthored by Izabela Kielichowska.

In a previous blog post, we highlighted the opportunities and challenges facing floating offshore wind (FLOW). Several sea basins across Europe have huge potential for offshore wind energy, but they are currently unused because of their depths. For example, the Celtic Sea wind resource could be greater than 100 GW, and the Crown Estate has announced plans to create a new FLOW leasing opportunity in the Celtic Sea. There are several drivers that can be used to assist with FLOW commercialisation and open new seabed areas.

Drivers Can Assist with Faster FLOW Commercialisation

The technology and infrastructure needs of FLOW overlap significantly with other industries. Countries with a strong maritime heritage and experience in other marine industries, such as oil & gas extraction, can use their offshore experience to mobilise FLOW. The advent of FLOW has opened the door for countries such as Norway, which was previously precluded from using offshore wind owing to greater water depths, to build on its experience and enter the market. Other countries, such as the UK, can learn from this example to mobilise existing marine infrastructure and use experience from oil & gas industries.

As identified in Guidehouse’s Research and Development Opportunities for Offshore Wind Energy in California, a collaboration with California Energy Commission, state funding and R&D support should be targeted at specific challenges. Technologies for mooring and cabling, efficient O&M, and grid integration are at relatively high technology readiness levels, but they still need support to reach maturity. The deployment and operational efficiency of floating wind projects are vulnerable to unforeseen challenges, such as logistical barriers, infrastructure failures, and supply chain constraints. These considerations are particularly relevant in the Celtic Sea, where unique technical challenges will need to be overcome if FLOW is to be deployed on a commercial scale.

Identifying a clear roadmap to develop and build up to commercial scale deployment will build the required infrastructure and give developers confidence. For example, in its National Energy and Climate Plan, France has included a clear roadmap for pre-commercial and commercial-scale FLOW projects with decreasing prices. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the Crown Estate has included innovation incentives in its fourth seabed leasing round, such as rental discounts and the potential for hybrid projects. These initiatives, along with others, support development and continued growth of the sector in the UK. Concrete plans are required for the rest of the decade in these countries if commercial-scale FLOW is to be realised in new seabed areas, including the Celtic Sea.

FLOW power is rapidly approaching and will play a significant role in achieving renewable energy targets in Europe. Intelligent use of existing infrastructure, targeted R&D, and clear roadmaps will lay the foundations for effective deployment across the continent.