The future of offshore wind is afloat

Equinor is a global offshore wind major and the world’s leading floating offshore wind developer — a position we intend to keep – being the only company in the world with a running commercial park and another under 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.

  • In 2017 Equinor opened the first full-scale floating offshore wind farm, Hywind Scotland. Equinor operates the 30MW wind farm which has the highest capacity factors in the UK for the third year in a row.
  • Equinor is building the world’s largest floating wind farm, Hywind Tampen, which will also be the first to power oil and gas platforms.
  • Scale is key to reducing cost; between the pilot and Hywind Scotland, CAPEX / MW reduced by 70%, and Equinor expects a further 40% drop between Hywind Scotland and Hywind Tampen
  • Equinor is pursuing opportunities to develop more floating offshore wind projects in key markets.

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.

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.
  • Optimized dynamic cable solutions, new types of cable layouts that will reduce investment and maintenance costs and secure high power production.
  • Optimized 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 wind turbines - illustration

There are two main design concepts of floaters for offshore wind, - spar bouy (left) and semi-submersible (right). Equinor’s common design principles and solutions are applicable across both. 

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 stabilizes the turbine through regulating the turbine blades, optimizing power production and reducing stress on tower, substructure and moorings. 

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.

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 stabilized 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.

Illustration: Shematic diagram and map of Hywind Scotland.

Where we started: the Hywind design

Hywind is a great example of what we can achieve by combining our existing offshore expertise with new and available technologies and innovative minds. Thoroughly proven through years of testing, it is the world’s most viable floating wind turbine design, consisting of a giant wind turbine placed on top of a floating vertical spar.