The world’s largest floating wind farm, from Norwegian oil and gas giant Equinor, just produced its first power. Two further floating wind projects have been announced for the U.K. and France, expected to boost Europe’s wind energy output by 2030 significantly. These early floating wind projects provide hope to renewable energy companies looking to expand their operations, as well as fossil fuel companies aiming to decarbonise through the incorporation of clean energy technology in their oil and gas operations.
With governments and energy companies investing greater amounts in renewable energy projects, as pressure mounts to shift away from fossil fuels, we are seeing more ambitious and expansive green energy operations emerge. One such development is the new Hywind Tampen wind project from Equinor, described as the largest floating wind farm in the world, which started producing its first power this month. More turbines in the farm are expected to start producing energy before the end of the year.
Hywind Tampen, with a system capacity of 88 MW, is located in the North Sea. It will be used to power Equinor’s oil and gas operations in the region, with power being sent to the Gullfaks oil and gas field. It also provides a blueprint for other widescale, offshore wind farms worldwide. Geir Tungesvik, Equinor’s executive vice president for projects, drilling and procurement stated “I am proud that we have now started production at Hywind Tampen, Norway’s first and the world’s largest floating wind farm.” He added, “This is a unique project, the first wind farm in the world powering producing oil and gas installations.”
The inauguration of this facility is optimistic for oil and gas companies looking for ways to decarbonise their operations, rather than quitting fossil fuels altogether. As the global demand for oil and gas continues to rise, several firms are assessing how they can respond to government and international community pressure to reduce carbon emissions while ensuring the world’s access to oil and gas. In addition to carbon and capture and storage (CCS) projects, this may be one way for energy companies to reduce their carbon footprint. It also offers hope to renewable energy companies planning to develop large-scale wind projects.
And much more floating wind capacity is planned for Europe in the coming years. The Crown Estate for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland announced in July this year that it had plans to develop 4GW of floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea by 2035, to power up to four million homes. It hopes to expand the fields further by 2045, to around 20GW. Having identified five broad ‘Areas of Search’, the Crown Estate stated, “These areas have been identified following technical analysis and extensive engagement between The Crown Estate, the UK and Welsh governments and key agencies, and specialist stakeholders. Further stakeholder and market feedback will be used to refine the Areas of Search into smaller project development areas, within which the first generation of commercial-scale floating wind farms could be built.”
It plans to offer the market in a competitive tender around mid-2023, including 1GW-scale projects to be developed over several phases. It explained, "This approach is deliberately intended to provide further opportunities for investment in the supply chain and to facilitate the coordination of supporting infrastructure.”
In October, the Estate provided updates to potential developers, allowing for the creation of consortia and preparation for the tender process. Prospective companies must submit a plan of their early investment, alongside the relevant legal, financial, and technical elements to be assessed for qualification to the final round of the tender.
The project is expected to create about 29,000 jobs, with an anticipated economic return from the project of $5.18 billion by 2050. This would help boost British jobs and the economy, as the U.K. gradually transitions away from oil and gas, which many fear will mean a huge loss of jobs. Until now, offshore wind turbines in the U.K. have been built into the seabed on fixed foundations. This project will establish floating wind farms that can be placed in deeper waters, further away from the coast.
The European Investment Bank also announced this year that it would be funding three floating offshore wind farms off the French Mediterranean coast. Each project will be centered around a different innovative technology, with all the turbines anchored to the seabed via underwater cables. This will allow turbines to be situated in deeper water for optimal wind conditions.
An estimate from earlier this year suggested that Europe may have as much as 10 GW of floating wind capacity installed by 2030. However, a lot depends on governments developing the right policy frameworks to support the development of floating farms, alongside regulatory bodies that will oversee these types of projects. The inauguration of the first large-scale floating wind projects will likely encourage both renewable energy companies and oil and gas firms to invest in the development of more floating wind capacity to support decarbonisation goals and the shift away from fossil fuels to green alternatives.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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