Industrialising floating offshore wind
Equinor is a global offshore wind major and the world’s leading floating offshore wind developer and operator – a position we intend to keep – being the first company in the world with a running commercial park and another in the final stages of construction.
Freeing wind power from bottom-fixed designs opens a world of new markets and opportunities. We have the experience and capabilities that are necessary to take floating offshore wind to the industrial level.
Our offshore experience from the North Sea and around the world makes us uniquely qualified to lead the way and further develop floating offshore wind. We employ a technology agnostic approach, meaning we will select the best suited floating wind technology for the given project.
We believe that floating offshore wind is the next wave in renewable energy and that it can achieve profitability by 2030 through scale and industrialisation. We are seeking opportunities for floating offshore wind and are developing projects and partnerships in selected markets.
Why floating wind?
- Winds are stronger and more consistent further out to sea
Close to 80% of the world’s offshore wind resource potential is in waters deeper than 60 metres
- 2.4 billion people live within 100km of the shoreline - floating offshore wind can deliver major-scale power directly to global markets
- Floating wind can potentially power 12 million homes in Europe by 2030
Removing water depth constraints allows us to select the best sites in the world
- Floating wind has a higher capacity factor thanks to better wind further offshore
- Our goal is that floating wind be competitive with other forms of energy by the year 2030
- We expect floating offshore wind to be the next big breakthrough in renewables.
How do wind turbines float?
How do our wind turbines float? And why don’t they capsize in a storm?
- Most wind turbines today are fixed to the seabed, so-called bottom-fixed, in waters less than 60 metres deep
- The next generation of offshore wind turbines are designed to float further out to sea, where winds are stronger, but the water depths make bottom-fixed designs uneconomic
- Most offshore wind floater designs are familiar from the oil and gas industry. Hywind is based on a spar buoy design and its great stability is provided by gravity. Semisubmersible floaters rely on buoyancy instead, while TLP are stabilised by the tension in the mooring system.
- Floating wind turbines are moored to the seabed with multiple mooring lines and anchors, in much the same way that a floating oil platform is moored
- Equinor's proprietary floating wind turbine motion controller uses sensors and computers to regulate the turbine blades in relation to the wind gusts, dampening tower movements, reducing strain on the moorings and maximising electricity production.
Our approach to developing floating offshore wind
Today, floating offshore wind is a viable and mature solution ready for market. We believe in a rapid acceleration in growth — just as we have witnessed in other wind and renewable technologies. Together with the industry, we aim to make it a competitive renewable energy source.
As a technology-agnostic developer, we will select the substructures and designs for our floating wind installations best suited to the local conditions where they will be used.
Our experience building floating offshore wind facilities have provided us with valuable learnings to build upon. Now we are developing the first wind farm in the North Sea, Hywind Tampen, providing us with additional experience.
Reducing the costs to achieve profitability
Building and operating in larger scale is key to reducing cost. Between the Hywind Demo and Hywind Scotland, the CAPEX / MW was reduced by 70%, and we expect a further 40% drop between Hywind Scotland and Hywind Tampen. Our primary goal is to further reduce the costs through technological improvements and increasing the scale of projects.
Equinor launches next generation floating offshore wind
Through twenty years of floating offshore wind experience and innovations, Equinor has developed a set of design principles and solutions that are applicable across floating wind concepts that will enable more local content and industrial standardisation.
As the leading floating offshore wind developer, Equinor’s constant focus is to find out how technology can be deployed cost effectively whilst maximising local benefits. By standardising a set of key design principles and solutions for floating wind, we are taking an important step towards developing competitive full-scale floating wind farms, demonstrating that floating offshore wind is deployable at scale, in different geographies, and cost effective with local adaptability to the supply chain.
The following design principles and solutions for floating wind are viable across the main types of floating concepts:
- A patented floater motion controller, which ensures the floating wind turbine remains stable while delivering optimal power production, introducing new features and adapted to semi-concepts.
- A new floater substructure complementing the Hywind spar, based on simple geometry design and passive ballast, that ensures cost optimal units with maximum reliability.
- Mooring systems where we are introducing fibre rope in addition to chain solutions that will lower cost and enhance opportunities for local content, ensuring safe station keeping.
- Optimised dynamic cable solutions, new types of cable layouts that will reduce investment and maintenance costs and secure high power production.
- Optimised export solutions, introducing floating and first of its kind seabed substations.
Equinor is technology agnostic and will select the best suited floating wind concept for its projects. Water depths, available and suitable cost-efficient fabrication yards and ports, and capacities of the local supply chain are primary drivers for selecting a given design.
Building on Hywind, Equinor has developed a new floating concept, the Wind Semi, a semisubmersible wind turbine. Based on our design principles, the Wind Semi will give optimal stability and power production and facilitate large scale industrialisation of floating wind. Additionally, it will allow for local fabrication and assembly, encouraging local supply chain development.
Floating turbines are designed to float in the water allowing offshore wind development where the water is too deep for bottom-fixed solutions.
Most offshore wind floater designs are similar to the ones applied for the oil and gas platforms. Floating turbines are moored to the seabed with multiple mooring lines and anchors, in much the same way as a floating oil platform. Floating wind turbine motion controllers stabilises the turbine through regulating the turbine blades, optimising power production and reducing stress on tower, substructure and moorings.
How does floating wind affect the environment?
It is impossible to build and operate installations onshore and offshore without impacting the environment. Therefore, our aim is to have net-positive impact on the environment and society from our renewable energy projects.
To get there, we believe close collaboration and dialogue with authorities, local stakeholders and scientific communities is key to successfully develop offshore wind in a sustainable manner. We continuously work to increase the knowledge base on how to sustainably develop floating offshore wind and to successfully coexist with other users of the sea.
Did you know floating windfarms can attract animals foraging for food and shelter? No? Well, then you can read more about that and other effects on biodiversity in floating offshore windfarms in the extensive study below done by Ocean Science consulting on behalf of Equinor.
How can floating wind coexist with other marine interest?
We believe in the cooperative coexistence of floating wind and other marine industries and interests. In our experience early dialogue and close collaboration is key.
Trialling static fishing methods within a floating wind farm
There is a perception that floating offshore windfarms make it difficult to fish because of the underwater structures. As the ocean becomes a busier place, can floating offshore wind and the fishing industry coexist?
Through a partnership with Marine Scotland Science, Equinor has undertaken trials at Hywind Scotland to find out whether it is possible to fish safely with certain types of static fishing gear inside the turbine area of a floating offshore windfarm.
These trials provide valuable insights for Equinor's floating offshore wind projects all over the world.