The Blog - Wind energy market analysis

Posted 19/09/2019

Ilaria Valtimora

   

Floating our boat: Principle Power on floating turbine foundations

We are set to host our inaugural European Wind Investment Awards on 31st October. Before the event, we're looking at the companies shortlisted in our Innovation Award category, and how they could influence the industry. In this edition, we look at Principle Power and its WindFloat floating foundation.

Principle Power  WindFloat

What is WindFloat?

Principle Power has been one of the earliest movers in the floating wind sector with its patented floating foundation WindFloat, which means that developers can build in offshore sites that are either classed as 'transitional' (40-60 metres seabed depth) and 'deep-water' (deeper than 60 metres) sites.

WindFloat is designed to work with any commercially-available offshore wind turbine. This would be mounted on one of the three stabilising columns, which make up the semi-submersible platform.

The technology has been proven with a full-scale prototype, which supported a 2MW Vestas turbine on a site 5km off the coast of Portugal, from 2011 to 2016. In its five years of operation, the prototype has delivered over 17.5GWh of electricity to the grid and survived waves of up to 17m without any damage.

In 2018, Principle Power moved and retrofitted its 2MW floating offshore wind unit from Portugal to the Kincardine floating pilot project in Scotland's waters. The delivery and commissioning of this unit has helped to prove the potential low costs and flexibility of deployment of floating offshore wind. Kincardine is majority-owned by Spain’s Cobra Group and is set to consist of a further five 9.5MW MHI Vestas turbines, mounted on Principle Power’s WindFloat.

In addition, a consortium made up of EDP Renovaveis (79.4%), Engie (25%), Repsol (19.4%) and Principle Power (1.2%) last year secured €60m from the European Investment Bank to finance construction of the 25MW WindFloat Atlantic project off the coast of Portugal. In this development, three 8.4MW MHI Vestas turbines are set to be mounted on WindFloat platforms.

The bankability of this project has represented a very important milestone for the still-nascent floating offshore wind industry.

Why is this an innovation?

WindFloat is one of a handful of floating foundations that are being tested in the market, and is among the best known.

The technology allows projects to be sited in locations where winds are best, while avoiding areas that are used for fishing or by other stakeholders, or are ecologically sensitive. This means that it can be located into very deep waters which are not visible from the shore.

In addition, the platform presents relatively simple assembly and installation requirements, which happen onshore. This can then be towed to site using standard tugs, eliminating the need for offshore construction with expensive jack-up crane vessels; and proving to be minimally invasive for the seabed. This contributes reducing cost and risk for the industry.

Finally, WindFloat can be used with very large wind turbines and high capacity, enabling significant economies of scale.

Why is it in our shortlist?

Floating wind is still nascent and has yet to be demonstrated at large scale.

However, Principle Power’s WindFloat is contributing to drive the floating offshore wind sector towards full commercialisation. The company is set to commission three projects totalling 100MW by 2021. They are located in France, Portugal and the UK.

A number of cost projections suggest that floating wind can reach cost parity with fixed-bottom during the 2020s, with adequate support by governments. The challenge for the industry is to reduce costs from today’s demonstrators to a commercial model where designs can be optimised and the industry can benefit from the economies of scale needed to drive costs down.

In this sense, the WindFloat could provide an enabling technology for the development of the floating offshore wind industry and contribute to the opening of deep water markets, including East Asia, US West Coast and the Mediterranean basin.

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We will be revealing the winners of the 13 categories in our European Wind Investment Awards at a ceremony in London on 31st October.

On the same day, we will look at the biggest issues facing wind investors at our Financing Wind Europe conferenceTo register to attend, you can check out our Financing Wind Europe site. If you've reached your quota and would like to buy more tickets, please contact Zoe on zoe@awordaboutwind.com

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