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Scotland has opportunity to lead floating wind industry says new report

Published:  04 September, 2015

A new Carbon Trust report, launched by Minister for Energy Fergus Ewing MSP, sets out the current state of the floating wind industry and identifies key technical barriers that need to be addressed to make it a commercial reality.

The study, commissioned by the Scottish Government, is the most comprehensive review of floating wind technologies to date, and is based on information provided by concept developers. The report outlines the potential scale of cost reduction achievable for floating wind technology and the opportunity for Scotland to take the lead in commercialising this technology.

As installed capacity for offshore wind increases and the relatively accessible shallow near-shore sites are exhausted, wind farms using fixed-bottom foundations will need to be developed further from shore and in deeper water, which will pose greater technical challenges and constrain efforts to reduce costs. In response to this challenge, momentum is building around the potential for floating offshore wind technology to unlock near-shore deep water sites at a lower cost than far-shore fixed-bottom locations. Floating wind is particularly well suited to Scotland. A combination of high wind speeds, abundant near-shore deep water sites, and the ability to leverage existing infrastructure and supply chain capabilities from the offshore oil and gas industry create the requisite conditions to position Scotland as a world leader in floating wind technology.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Scottish Government is committed to a successful and sustainable offshore renewables sector which fully realises Scotland’s outstanding offshore renewable energy resources.

“The Scottish Government has been working with The Carbon Trust to produce a Market and Technology Review to encourage the development of Floating Offshore Wind. This report will help as we look to reduce the costs of floating wind technology and increase the opportunity for Scotland to take the lead in commercialising this technology.

“All those involved in this report are keen to work with developers and the supply chain to drive down industry costs and make floating wind the next big opportunity.”

Jan Matthiesen, director of Offshore Wind at the Carbon Trust commented:

“This report provides one of the most comprehensive assessments of floating wind technology to date and highlights the need for government and industry need to work together to support technology demonstrations and targeted R&D initiatives to de-risk this technology and realise the cost reduction potential. At the same time, industry should now team up to overcome common challenges and bring floating offshore wind from concept to commercial reality.”

The Carbon Trust has conducted quantitative analysis of 18 concepts currently on the market, based on information provided by the innovators, to understand the key technology trends, cost drivers and barriers to commercialisation. This follows an announcement from the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult earlier this week of key findings from a study on the potential for innovation in the supply chain to reduce costs and support moving the floating offshore wind sector towards commercial readiness.

The Carbon Trust's analysis revealed that floating wind concepts have the potential to reach below £100/MWh in commercial deployments, according to platform developers, with the leading concepts estimating even lower costs of £85-£95MWh, which would be competitive with fixed-bottom projects if floating wind reaches commercial scale deployment in the 2020s.

The report goes on to outline a series of recommendations to address the barriers and support the development of floating wind, defined at four levels:

• Concept-specific RD&D initiatives to support device development and provide funding for part and full-scale demonstrations.

• Test facility development to establish the tank and offshore testing facilities needed to demonstrate promising concepts and test innovative component technologies.

• Component-level RD&D initiatives to tackle common challenges.

• Evidence-based studies to build a business case for investment in floating wind technology and identify the most effective policy interventions to attract private sector investment.

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