Floating wind turbines could be key offshore wind technology for the next decade
January 19, 2021 Sharon Chen
Despite impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global offshore wind market is expected to add 6.5 GW of installations in 2020, up 6.5 % year-over-year. Europe is currently the world’s largest offshore wind market, accounting for 50-60% of the share. From 2025 onwards, offshore wind energy, led by Asia Pacific, is expected to grow robustly and surge by 2030, with the region contributing to around 76% of installation growth.
South Korea has a clear policy framework for offshore wind development, aiming at building 4.6 GW of floating wind farms by 2030. Japan, on the other hand, has adopted floating wind technology for the Goto Island wind farm, the first offshore wind project for which an auction taking place in the country. This indicates that floating wind system shows great potential in the offshore wind development over the next decade. In Taiwan, the government has not stipulated any policy for floating wind development, but developer Swancor Renewable Energy has planned to use floating wind structure for the 4.4 GW Formosa 4 offshore wind project, while CIP expects to adopt floating technology for three wind farms that have a combined capacity of 3.3 GW.
Unlike the traditional fixed-bottom foundation, floating wind turbines are mounted on a floating structure. The technology takes inspiration from offshore oil drilling foundation, which lies in deeper waters. The most common platforms used by the drilling industry today are tension-leg platform (TLP), spar, and semi-submersible, which are the most resistant to winds, waves, tides and currents.
Of the three types of foundation, the semi-submersible platform could be the most workable for Taiwan’s geographical features. The spar platform, which is mounted at a water depth of at least 100m, is currently the most widely discussed technology in Taiwan. However, the deepest water depth of Taiwan is 90m only, making it unfavorable for such technology. Relatively higher installation cost of spar platform also adds to the challenge. The tension-leg platform, which is anchored by suction piles, requires higher techniques and stability. The semi-submersible platform, on the other hand, can be constructed onshore and transported to the offshore wind site for installation without being affected by changes in seascape. This feature makes semi-submersible structure the most feasible technology for Taiwan, as an offshore wind foundation is given about seven months of time to complete.
With nearshore wind development becoming concentrated and fixed foundation a widely adopted technology in Europe, floating wind turbines that can be installed at deeper waters will emerge as an international trend, and demand for floating wind turbines will lead the offshore wind technology development in the growing market of Asia Pacific over the next 10 years.
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