Offshore Wind, Ready to Float? Global and UK Trends in the Floating Offshore Wind Market

Hannon, Matthew and Topham, Eva and Dixon, James and McMillan, David and Collu, Maurizio (2019) Offshore Wind, Ready to Float? Global and UK Trends in the Floating Offshore Wind Market. [Report]

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    Abstract

    Floating wind foundations could unlock offshore wind power generation in deeper and more remote waters. This report examines how quickly floating wind is progressing towards becoming a key contributor to the global electricity supply mix. It contains a special focus on developments in the UK and Scotland, uncovering challenges that could undermine the growth of floating wind, as well as policy recommendations to overcome these. The floating wind market is growing steadily, expanding from almost zero installed capacity in 2008 to 57 MW in 2018. Looking forward, there is an impressive pipeline of projects for future deployment. By 2030, global capacity of floating wind could be as high as 4.3 GW. Deployment of installed capacity has to date been dominated by the UK and Japan, and the vast majority of these foundations have been designed and developed by companies in Norway and Japan. New entrants, most notably the USA and France, are expected to challenge for leadership in both deployment and design. Whilst SMEs have played a central role in driving growth in the sector, multi-national energy firms are investing heavily in floating wind deployment and design. These include: (1) oil and gas majors; (2) energy utilities; and (3) Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Floating wind rated turbine capacity more than tripled and hub height almost doubled between 2008–13 and 2013–18. However, the majority of projects remain single-turbine demonstration projects, with just one array deployed. During the same period, the projects’ distance from shore has doubled to average 11km but their depth has increased by just 7%. However, at an average depth of 65m, projects are operating in waters deeper than most bottom-fixed foundations are economically capable of. The UK is the world leader in floating wind deployment, with 56% of global capacity. Retaining this future lead will, however, be likely to depend on it retaining an open trading relationship with the EU, a relationship that it has depended on heavily to deliver its two existing floating wind projects. Taking opportunities to grow the UK content of the offshore wind supply chain may help to mitigate some disruption post-Brexit. The removal of the UK’s Renewables Obligation (RO) has created a gap for long-term support of small-scale pre-commercial floating wind projects. Domestic support will become even more important, should the UK lose access to European technology demonstration funding post-Brexit.