Here’s why floating wind power is the future—and how offshore expertise from Norway is making it possible

In the future, the world will depend on climate-friendly generation of electricity—and it’s offshore industry expertise from Norway that’s making the transition possible.

Stine Myhre Selås is a structural engineer working for Equinor. Together with her colleague Astrid Fosså Ekseth, she’s on a trip offshore to the coast of Scotland, looking up at the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, Hywind Scotland. They like what they see.

“I was involved in the work building these in Spain,” says Selås proudly. “It’s really cool to see them in real life.”

Photo: David Gustavsen Tvetene, VG Partnerstudio/Equinor
Stine Myhre Selås and colleague Astrid Fosså Ekseth are engineers working for Equinor. Here they are visiting Hywind Scotland offshore Peterhead.

It’s now 18 years since the Hywind design was first sketched out on a napkin by a couple of Norwegian Equinor engineers becalmed on a sailing trip together (you can read their story below). Now this wind farm is now supplying the Scottish town of Peterhead with electricity.

Even though it’s a relatively calm day out at sea off Aberdeen, the large offshore wind supply vessel is rolling rhythmically in the swell. High above the deck, one of the five floating wind turbines rotates with a gigantic circumference of 154 metres, driven by the wind. This wind farm is the first of its kind in the world, and the start of what could be Norway's next industrial adventure — and an important contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Facts about Hywind Scotland

  • The world’s first floating offshore wind farm, with 5 turbines
  • Pilot park covering around 4 square kilometres
  • Installed capacity: 30 MW
  • Diameter 154 m
  • Maximum height, base to turbine: 253 m
  •  Water depth: 95-120 m
  • Spar-type substructure
  • Standard offshore wind turbine
  • Powering ~20,000 UK homes
  • Export cable length: Ca. 30 km
  • Average wave height: 1.8 m

Suitable for harsh conditions, simple 3-line mooring system, patented motion control reduces fatigue, increases production

How do we make a 253-metre high wind turbine float?

Structural engineer Stine Myhre Selås explains how ballast provides the key to making the Hywind turbine float upright.

Stine Myhre Selås started working for Equinor nine years ago, after coming straight from her studies with a master’s degree in marine engineering. She admits there are still many challenges to be solved, but believes wind power today can be compared to the pioneering early years in Norway’s oil industry in the 1970s.

“Initially there weren’t many oil engineers in Norway, but experts from the geoscientific, shipping, mechanical and construction industries were used and built on their expertise. It's a little bit like we're working on developing new renewable projects today, she says.

More about Hywind Scotland pilot park:

“Much of the knowledge we have acquired over the course of almost fifty years of oil production can be used in our wind power projects.”

Stine Myhre Selås, structural engineer in Equinor

Wind energy is climate-friendly
New advances in renewable energy are constantly being made. One of the areas that Equinor is focusing on is offshore wind. And a lot of this expertise comes from oil and gas, because these are also big projects out at sea.

“This is just the beginning. We will be able to build even better turbines and even larger wind farms in the future,” says Myhre Selås.

How much electricity does a wind turbine produce?

Stine Myhre Selås explains how much energy is generated by just half a turn of the blades. (For English captions, press CC)

Went from oil to wind
Astrid Fosså Ekseth has worked with oil in Equinor for nearly five years. She’s now heading up the department working on the preparation for operation of offshore wind projects.

“The turbines will be 3 times taller than the Statue of Liberty and supply power to 500,000 homes in New York.”

Astrid Fosså Ekseth, head of oeprations for offshore wind projects, Equinor

“For me, the transition to renewable energy went surprisingly well. In oil and gas projects I have learned about marine operations and project implementation, which is the competence you need in wind projects as well.”

Astrid Fosså Ekseth explains how Hywind Scotland power comes to shore (for English captions, press CC)

She says the plan now is to scale up and build larger wind farms, some floating like Hywind Scotland and some that are bottom-fixed, such as the Empire Wind wind farm outside New York.

“New York is among the cities in the world with the most ambitious climate targets, and wind is an important part of the solution. For Equinor, this is a big project, and I'm sure our experience from oil and gas projects will come in handy again,” says Fosså Ekseth.

Great Britain:
In addition to Hywind Scotland, Equinor has built two other UK farms: 317 megawatts Sheringham Shoal and 402 megawatts Dudgeon.

In April, Arkona opened in Germany, with 60 turbines. The Arkona project is 385 megawatts.

Equinor has signed a 50 per cent stake in two development projects, "Bałtyk Środkowy III" (BSIII) and "Bałtyk Środkowy II" (BSII). The total capacity of the projects is 1.2 gigawatts.

United States:
In July 2019, Equinor won a large tender for a wind turbine park off the coast of New York. Empire Wind will supply renewable energy to New York's residents, as soon as 2024.

Cañadón León is a new land-based wind project. The wind farm will have a capacity of about 120 megawatts.