“Floating wind turbines are not confined anymore to R and D” asserts Wind Europe, the European association for wind energy. Indeed, since the first floating wind turbines have been installed in 2016, it seems that new renewable energies are not projects anymore. Wind power gets more and more innovative, with new technologies being more efficient. Already present in Portugal, the North Sea, the United States, and Japan, floating wind turbines reached France in 2016, with the project of wind farms offshore Brittany.
That kind of floating turbines, also called Floating Offshore Wind (FOW), are situated in areas with 60 meters depth, allowing them to catch far more wind power than traditional offshore turbines. Thanks to this position, the energy supply is secure and continuous, and could potentially allow FOW to become an important part of Europe energy mix in the future and a capital driver for the energy transition. Researchers even estimate that relying on floating wind farm will be significant in the reaching of the 2030 goals set by the European Union.
The major disadvantage for those floating wind farm seems to be the cost: according to a study issued by the organization Carbon Trust, the estimated cost of those floating wind turbines would be greater than for fixed turbines: for floating, it would represent 4,7$ million per megawatt of capacity, versus 3,9 million for fixed ones. But the cost estimations for future years seems to be positive, as according to IEA experts, the costs could be reduced up to 50% by 2050, turning the facility more cost-efficient and therefore a valuable alternative to fixed turbines, and, to a broader extent, to other forms of energy production.
Even though the costs seem to be the major drawback of floating wind turbines, one can still be optimistic about the future of those wind farms. Indeed, this product can be further improved thanks to technological advances: Portuguese researchers already designed a turbine using concrete to reduce construction costs. The rapidity of R&D in the field of renewables makes us consider optimistically the viability of those turbines in a few years. The potential of those wind farms, that could help Europe achieve its 2030 energy goals, can represent a new horizon for wind power and renewable energies.
Vaughan, Adam. 2017. “World’s First Floating Windfarm To Take Shape Off Coast Of Scotland”. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/27/hywind-project-scotland-worlds-first-floating-windfarm-norway.
MIT Technology review: Floating Wind Farms: Great Concept, Implausible Economics: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601481/floating-wind-farms-great-concept-implausible-economics/