The world of floating offshore is moving very fast. Only last month Nicola Sturgeon was in the air above the Hywind Scotland wind farm, tweeting to her thousands of followers about this world first for Scotland.
She was there as the guest of Statoil and Masdar, our event partners in Floating Offshore Wind UK 2017, or #FOWUK17 for short. #FOWUK17 is the UK’s first event dedicated to floating offshore wind and is happening next week in Glasgow.
As Statoil and Masdar have shown, floating wind has come of age. Through being there at the beginning, the UK has the opportunity to benefit as a worldwide market opens up. Floating offshore wind brings into play areas of the sea unsuitable for fixed offshore wind farms. It also offers new supply chain opportunities for companies active in the oil and gas sector.
This week industry is celebrating its achievements as part of Offshore Wind Week. At events in the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments we have been celebrating the supply chain and apprentice success stories which are spread around our coastline. Next week we will follow that up with a discussion on the next generation of offshore wind.
With the cost of fixed offshore wind falling rapidly, floating now stands at a critical point. It can benefit from the rapid developments in turbine technology and experience of construction and O&M from fixed offshore wind. Floating wind also offers the opportunity for onshore construction, and use of cheaper vessels which will help drive down cost. Most critical, by moving further offshore, we can tap into a larger resource. 80% of Europe’s usable offshore wind resource is out at water depths greater than 60 metres. That resource would be enough to support up to 4,000GW of floating offshore. In the US and Asia the bulk of the resource is also out in deep waters so the possible market is vast.
If the UK is to develop expertise in floating offshore we must push on quickly. Following on from Hywind Scotland, focus turns to the Kincardine and Dounreay Tri projects. Both of these have plans for significant involvement of Scottish expertise, with ports and yards around the Scottish coastline expected to benefit from manufacture, assembly, construction and operation. These projects are not alone though, with developers now active in France, Portugal, the USA and Japan.
The UK has traditionally excelled in learning at home and then selling this expertise abroad. Developing a successful floating wind sector in the UK will not likely lead to UK yards being busy constructing spars or platforms for far off wind farms, but will mean that it is UK engineers designing, installing and operating these sites. If you think this vision is far-fetched then look to oil and gas which has the blueprint for how this is done. Then cross-check who is leading effort in floating offshore wind? You’ll see that floating offshore is the crossover point for much of the oil and gas supply chain looking to move into renewables.
The next year will be a critical time for floating offshore wind. We need the backing of Government so that early learning is not lost, but used to embed expertise within UK companies and suppliers. Then as offshore continues its growth around the world, countries will look to the UK for expertise on how we deploy this cutting-edge technology. At that point, turbines will be installed using a range of foundations and platform types suitable for deployment in different locations across the globe and floating offshore wind will have come of age. And for the UK it means we maintain our lead in offshore wind, and our competitive edge around the world.
Sounds good right? If you’re interested in being part of this global movement then you should join us in Glasgow to talk floating offshore wind at #FOWUK17.