Scotland to Build World’s Largest Floating Wind Farm

New offshore wind technology could lower the cost of renewable energy.
(Photo: Øyvind Hagen/Statoil ASA)
Nov 2, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Scotland’s government has approved the construction of the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm, capable of powering nearly 20,000 homes.

Work on the five-turbine, 30-megawatt development should start in 2016. The project will be built around 15 miles off Scotland’s east coast near Peterhead.

Unlike conventional offshore wind farms that put turbines on platforms anchored to the seabed, like oil rigs, the new project—known as Hywind Scotland—will have its turbines tethered to the seafloor via a three-point mooring system.

The pilot project, operated by Norwegian oil and gas giant Statoil, is a trial run of a new technology that could lower the cost of putting offshore wind farms in deeper parts of the ocean. With typical offshore wind projects, turbines stand on pile-driven concrete and steel foundations that extend to the seabed, a process that gets more costly in deeper waters.

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From water surface to turbine tip, Hywind’s floating turbines will measure about 580 feet high, with an additional 260 feet below the water. (Illustration: Statoil ASA)

“Statoil’s objective with developing this pilot park is to demonstrate a commercial, utility-scale floating wind solution, to further increase the global market potential,” Irene Rummelhoff, Statoil’s executive vice president for new energy solutions, said in a statement. “We are proud to develop this unique project in Scotland, in a region that has optimal wind conditions, a strong supply chain within oil and gas and supportive public policies.”

Floating wind projects, according to research from the Carbon Trust, could reduce the generating costs of offshore wind developments from an average $172.61 per megawatt hour to below $154 per megawatt hour.

Another report, commissioned by Energy Technologies Institute, found that floating wind could be a secure, cost-effective source of energy, costing less than $131 per megawatt hour by the mid-2020s.

John Swinney, Scotland’s deputy first minister, welcomed the new project. “The momentum is building around the potential for floating offshore wind technology to unlock deeper water sites,” he said in a statement. “The ability to leverage existing infrastructure and supply chain capabilities from the offshore oil and gas industry create the ideal conditions to position Scotland as a world leader in floating wind technology.”

For Scotland, the floating wind farm is just the latest notch in its renewable energy tool belt. The country is on pace to become independent of fossil fuels by 2030, according to a recent World Wildlife Fund report.