Floating wind has made significant advances in recent years and is set to become a major contributor to global offshore wind capacity over the coming decades, with the potential to provide 10GW of capacity in the UK by 2050. These are the findings of a joint report published by the Crown Estate in Scotland and Catapult Offshore Renewable Energy.
The aim of the report is to set out the long-term economic benefits of government policy supporting the early stages of UK floating wind deployment. The UK leads the world in floating wind and has the opportunity to grow the industry to provide increased employment and the potential for £33.6 billion in added value by 2050.
Floating wind turbines use floating substructures anchored to the seabed in areas where the water is too deep or the seabed is unsuitable for a traditional fixed-bed wind turbine to be viable. The use of floating wind turbines in locations far from the shore can harness stronger wind resource. They also provide a solution for deep water sites close to shore that have not been utilised by fixed-bottom turbines due to the economic and technical challenges. Notably, near-shore deep water sites can be found around the coast of Scotland and Wales, which also benefit from higher wind speeds. In addition, Scotland benefits from already having the oil and gas industry logistics in place, which could be beneficial in supporting the floating wind industry.
The UK Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) is seeking to establish a sector deal with the government to include offshore wind capacity targets of 30GW by 2030 and 50GW by 2050. Over 7GW of offshore wind is currently operational in the UK, with a further 7GW under construction. Floating wind has the potential to contribute 10GW towards the 2050 target. The government is already providing revenue support for the 30MW Hywind Scotland project that commenced operations in 2017. Support is also being provided to the Kincardine project, which will be up to 50MW in capacity and is due to be fully operational in 2019.
Other countries investing in floating wind include Japan, the United States, France, Portugal, and China.