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.

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.