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Thought Leadership
14 January 2022 By Aproop Dheeraj Ponnada Solution Owner Floating Wind

Aproop Dheeraj Ponnada, Fugro’s Solution Owner for Floating Wind, believes that envisioning floating offshore wind (FOW) as an energy production platform will supercharge innovation and drive down levelised cost of energy (LCOE). To accelerate the world’s transition to clean energy, it’s time to dream big and let imaginations run wild.

The 2015 Paris Agreement goals and COP-26 negotiations are driving the global transition to clean energy and FOW has a major role to play in achieving the world’s climate change ambitions.

Overcome challenges

Floating wind compares favourably with other forms of renewable energy. It has higher capacity factors, fewer land-related constraints and attracts far less controversy due to broader political support. However, as a pilot technology, there are many questions to answer before FOW can be scaled globally, including:

  • Will it float and still produce power reliably?;
  • Will it generate reasonable financial returns?;
  • Can it cement its environmental credentials in an evolving regulatory landscape?;
  • Will supply chains grow to meet the massive industry demand?.

Offshore wind turbine generating clean energy

Offshore wind turbine generating clean energy

Develop new approaches

Although the scale of the task ahead is daunting, it is not without precedent. The oil and gas industry has successfully transitioned twice: from onshore to offshore and then from shallow to deep water.

We have already come a long way with FOW. We have learned how to ‘crawl’, (using know-how from fixed bottom turbines) and are learning to ‘walk’ (by developing and operating cost-effective FOW turbines, moorings and power cables).

We now need to find out how to ‘run’. This will involve optimising the processes, technologies and costs associated with upscaling FOW, such as:

Floating wind giga factory – systematically applying industrialisation and repeatability to speed up turbine fabrication, assembly and installation processes is necessary to produce hundreds of thousands of turbines a year. Floating wind is projected to upscale 2,000-fold by 2050.

Doing more with less – could two FOW turbines share a single anchor?

Going off the grid – derisking cables (they are both the lifeline and the Achilles heel of wind farms) and significantly reducing costs by avoiding direct-to-shore transmission.

Digital technology using data from remote operations and sensors to improve knowledge about the performance of FOW assets (how much power does the turbine produce at a 30° tilt? Or receiving live health updates on your turbine via a smartphone app).

Floating wind TetraSpar demonstration project

Floating wind TetraSpar demonstration project

The more you upsize the energy production of the sector, the lower the unit cost becomes. This has been done. I believe we’ll see supersized turbines capable of achieving supercharged economies of scale.

Envision the future

To achieve the required step change in FOW design, production, installation and operation we need to re-imagine the possible by driving down LCOE. More energy, less cost is the mantra.

Monetise – boost production by generating wind, tidal, wave and/or solar power from the same platform.

Hydrogenise – hydrogen will play a role in the energy transition. By 2050, the world may need up to 528 million tons of it every year. That’s a sevenfold increase. What if we built 6,000 commercial-scale FOW farms (360,000 x 16GW turbines) to produce that amount of hydrogen?

Supersize– imagine building a FOW farm capable of supporting five oil fields within a 50 km radius, in a remote deep-water location. The turbines would probably need to be bigger than anything in operation today to achieve economies of scale. How tall could they go? Would water depth become the primary limiting factor? To overcome the challenges of manufacturing and transporting huge turbines, could they be assembled using several interlocking pieces offshore?

Decarbonise – will the primary purpose of FOW become the supply of power to floating production vessels (FPSOs) in remote, deepwater locations? That would reduce cost and help decarbonise the oil and gas industry – some 3 Gigatons (more than shipping and aviation combined) of oil & gas lifecycle emissions occur upstream, including offshore power generation. Perhaps FOW will eventually meet the annual power needs of the entire offshore industry (16 TWh)?

In conclusion

Demand for electricity is set to continue its steep rise. Given the urgent need for decarbonisation, the world’s attention is now turning to renewables. The arguments for developing and implementing FOW on a global scale are compelling. The scale of the opportunity is tremendously exciting, but to maximise the potential of this impressive clean energy source, we must first find the courage to step outside our comfort zone and explore the realms of possibility. We must dare to dream…

Did you know?

  • Global FOW energy production is projected to grow to around 250 GW a year by 2050 (currently around 125 MW)
  • For FOW to meet expected global demand for hydrogen in 2050, it would need to generate 26,400 TWh of electricity a year
  • FOW capacity is 50 % (fixed offshore wind is an average of 40 % and solar is 20 %)

 

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