The World’s first floating wind farm

 By Amanda Saint

The Hywind Scotland Pilot Park Offshore Wind Farm is the world’s first floating wind farm and it has been online and powering homes since October 2017…

Over fifteen years in development and located 25 km off the coast of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the floating wind farm project is a partnership between Hywind and Statoil, a Norwegian energy firm which has branched out from its fossil fuel roots to become one of the world’s largest offshore wind companies. The goal of this pilot project was to ensure that the new floating turbines design was viable and to establish a supply chain for future projects if it was.
So what’s the attraction of floating farms rather than static ones?

Power potential

It’s all about the deepwater potential. The farm, which has six turbines with a combined power generation capacity of 30 MW, covers four square kilometers at sea depths of 95 to 120 meters, compared to static wind farm turbines which can only be installed in water depths of 60 to 80 meters.

The floating turbines are anchored up with three suction anchors each, and linked together to send the electricity produced onshore (Statoil)

A 2013 report issued by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), which has now been rebranded as Wind Europe, stated that deep sea floating wind farm installations in the North Sea alone could meet the entire European Union’s electricity consumption four times over. So now that the first one is live and powering 20,000 homes in Scotland the industry is understandably feeling optimistic about the future of wind energy.
A statement issued by Wind Europe on the opening of Scotland’s Hywind Farm shows that the costs have fallen by 60-70 percent compared to Statoil’s first pilot floating turbine outside Karmøy, Norway, in 2009. What’s getting the sector really excited about deep sea floating farm potential though is that Statoil is confident that cost reductions of a further 40-50 percent can be seen on future projects.
Wind Europe’s CEO, Giles Dickson, said: “The launch of the world’s first floating offshore wind farm clearly shows that the technology is well past the R&D stage. Floating offshore wind is now a viable technology and ready to be rolled out on an industrial scale. Adding floating to the market means more offshore wind in total. Eighty percent of Europe’s offshore wind resource potential is in waters 60m and deeper, where traditional bottom-fixed offshore is less attractive. The potential for floating is massive: 4,000 GW in Europe alone.”
So with the Hywind project proving the viability and establishing a supply chain, the potential for floating wind farms seems set to be realized. But it is all dependent on the right political environment, the necessary investment and, as always with the renewable energy sector, the right storage solution.


Floating farm technology

Shortly after the Hywind farm went live, it was announced that a German-American company, Younicos, would be providing the battery for it in a project named Batwind. Younics will be installing a 1 MW battery system, which will go live in Q2 2018, and it will be the world’s first battery storage system connected to a floating wind farm.
Younicos confirmed that it will be installing two of its Y.Cubes, 10-foot modular battery containers, at the Hywind Scotland onshore substation in Peterhead. In keeping with the innovative nature of the entire project, a key element of the Batwind battery installation is to understand how a battery can help increase the value of the produced electricity and how a battery can work together with the wind farm and the grid.
Statoil’s Head of Hywind Development, Sebastian Bringsværd, said: “Through Batwind we are including Younicos’ intelligent Y.Q software – or a brain if you like – on top of the battery to ensure that the battery behaves the way we want it to behave. We want the battery to automatically know when to hold back and store electricity, and when to send it out to the grid. Battery energy storage systems have existed in the market for several years and it is rapidly developing. However, there is limited knowledge of how to make a battery act based on dynamic information, in order to maximize value of renewable energy.”
France has also launched a floating turbine project, Floatgen, which will see a 2 MW floating wind turbine installed at a test site 12 nautical miles from the city of Le Croisic on the French Atlantic coast. Many more European projects are in the pipeline meaning that Wind Europe’s vision of the continent leading the energy transition from fossils to renewables, and maintaining its world-leading wind market position, could soon become a reality.

READ MORE: The road to 100% renewable energy by Robin Wylie

about the author
Amanda Saint
Journalist and content writer, specialised in engineering and technology with a focus on environmental sustainability, urbanisation and biotechnology.