Could Floating Offshore Wind Farms be the Next Wave of Renewable Energy?

July 2, 2021 by Al Maiorino

The article below was Published July 2, 2021 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

More and more of the UK’s energy is coming from renewable sources, but there is only so much space on land that can be used to house wind turbines. Floating wind farms could solve this problem.

Hywind Scotland created the world’s first floating wind farm which currently houses five 253-meter (about 830-feet) 6MW floating wind turbines. Located about 25 kilometers off the coast of Peterhead, Scotland, Hywind’s floating wind farm generates enough electricity for more than 30,000 households.

This offshore wind farm is the first that floats on the sea’s surface instead of being dug into the ocean bed. Each turbine is anchored to the surface of the sea using three 900-meter chains, in total weighing approximately 440 tons each.

Access to deeper waters means more consistent wind speeds and therefore, more efficiency when generating electricity. There is great worldwide potential to develop more floating wind farms along the coastlines of windier areas and even in deeper waters.

Many more offshore wind farms are being proposed in England and Scotland to start construction in the next three to five years.

“Floating wind power has enormous potential to be a core technology for reaching the climate goals in Europe and around the world,” says Frank Adam, a wind energy technology expert at the University of Rostock in Germany.

Near shore wind farms consistently gain opposition from conservation groups and coastal residents for various reasons. The development of floating wind farms would help remedy this problem, but there are still those who are concerned about the new floating wind farms.

Although there are many positives to floating wind farms and Hywind Scotland remains the UK’s best performing offshore wind farm, there are multiple communities who have raised concerns about Hywind Scotland and other offshore wind farm developments in hopes of stopping future projects.

Commercial fishermen have shown extremely strong opposition to commercial-scale offshore wind because they feel that the development of floating wind farms will make it difficult to impossible to fish in certain areas. This problem could potentially force them into disputes with other fishermen who refuse to share space. This community will present significant challenges to those looking to create and expand floating offshore wind farms.

There are also financial concerns about the development and sustainability of offshore wind farms. Return on investment of wind turbines, cost of developing and maintaining offshore wind farms, and other financial risks are being questioned as this new form of renewable energy grows and progresses. The electricity that is generated from offshore wind is currently twice as expensive as wind turbines found closer to shore. They are three times more expensive than on land turbines. Some question if the cost of floating offshore wind turbines will drop enough to compete with other clean energy tactics and technologies.

Since there are multiple communities who oppose this new type of wind farm, steps need to be taken to show these groups they are being heard and their concerns are being addressed by project leaders.

Performing an economic impact analysis can lessen any financial concerns. Also, the public must be educated about the economic benefits of offshore and floating wind projects by being reminded of an estimate of the number of jobs created for construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of floating wind farms.

Gaining public support should be a priority for any project that is facing opposition. Public Strategy Group can help by creating impactful public affairs campaigns that will positively reach the community through intense outreach, supporter engagement, and persistent communication.

Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1995. His firm has developed and managed multiple corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as gaming, cable television, retail development, auto racing, renewable energy and residential projects. Additionally, his firm has worked on projects in twenty-seven states and three countries.