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World’s first floating wind farm goes live in Scotland

The world’s first floating wind farm is now feeding into Scotland’s electricity grid. The $260M pilot project, majority owned by Statoil, is the first commercial development in the floating wind field. All prior floating wind turbines were research focused.

Floating wind is being developed because 80% of the Europe’s wind resources are located in water too deep for traditional fixed bottom wind turbines to reach. Additionally, just west of Europe, in the North Atlantic, there is enough wind to power the entire world.

The project is 75% owned by Statoil and 25% by Masdar. Statoil is a major oil company pushing hard to diversify into renewables, while Masdar is part of some of the largest, lowest priced solar projects globally.

The ‘Hywind Scotland‘ project is floating in 310-394 feet deep water. The technology for this project can be used in up to 1/2 mile deep water. A total area of about 2.5 square miles will be used. The 30MW farm, about 15 miles off shore, will produce an equivalent amount of electricity as 20,000 households would use. Each of the five 6MW turbines top out 574 feet above the water. The sub-water structures continue a further 256 feet, for a total of 830 feet tip to bottom. A single unit’s total weight is about 12,000 tons. The anchoring chains –

The five floating wind turbines for Hywind Scotland will be anchored to the seabed by three mooring chains each,connected to a suction anchor. The chains on each line are on average close to 2,952 feet in length, and have a diameter of just under 20 inches, weighing some 400 metric tonnes. Each Turbine is anchored by a 1.5 mile chain, weighing 1,200 tonnes. Chains are transported to Montrose, Scotland and Stord, Norway prior to offshore installation.

The project cost $260m to build ($12/W), and the electricity will be sold at 25¢/kWh. This subsidized price is about four times larger than the current local market prices. Statoil hopes to get the pricing to 4.7-7¢/kWh by 2030.

An energy storage project based on the ‘BatWind‘ program – a single 1MWh battery system tied to each wind turbine – is also being developed onshore as part of the overall wind farm. Certain early writings of the project suggested the 1MWh battery would be located on the water with the wind turbines, though images of the turbines from the air clearly show that isn’t the case.

Electrek’s Take

Before this project, there had only been light tests for floating wind farms. Hywind I, also by Statoil, was the largest prior – a single 2.3MW turbine. Now big money investors are going to be seriously looking at floating wind since Statoil, a company who is used to dealing with open ocean energy projects, successfully delivered.

Separately, the Danish government yesterday announced cash grants for wind programs – including another off shore development program.

In a recent article on Electrek, we saw that a chunk of the North Atlantic has enough wind power to power the world. Also noted in that research was how northern hemisphere solar power, and this North Atlantic 3m sq km area of wind power, were almost perfectly balanced out. Their seasonal peak energy production – the wind blows more in the winter, and the sun shines in the summer – complement each other, like no other. The technology on this project gets our wind turbines to 1/2 mile depth of water – that’s halfway to the depth that noted North Atlantic patch needs.

There was a time when I wondered whether humanity really could power itself from natural, sustainable, renewable sources – sources that won’t limit our species’s productivity with CO2 and other pollutants – I don’t doubt that the energy is there, I only wonder about our deployment timeframes.

The farm from above as taken by Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, the nation’s First Minister:

A video from Statoil, for your pleasure –

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