IRENA Makes Case for Floating Wind

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) added a supplement on floating wind to its Innovation Outlook: Offshore Wind report. In the document, IRENA details on the technology itself, current status, developers of floating wind technology, barriers and ways to overcome them to tap into the future market.

Illustration by Joshua Bauer, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (US Department of Energy)

In the document, IRENA points out that participation from policy makers, investors, researchers and industry is imperative to the success of floating offshore wind, which allows for access to deep-water sites and easy turbine set-up. In addition, floating foundations generally offer environmental benefits compared with fixed-bottom designs due to less-invasive activity on the seabed during installation.

Some of the largest potential markets, such as Japan and the United States, possess few shallow-water sites suitable for offshore wind development. Floating foundations could be game changers in this regard, IRENA said.

Floating foundations are already proven in harsh operating environments.

However, to contribute significantly to the global energy mix in the coming decades, floating offshore wind systems need to become less costly and, in turn, to be widely deployed. If market uptake is too slow, then the supply chain will not materialise, and costs will not come down rapidly enough for floating offshore wind to keep up with cost-of-energy reductions anticipated in other technologies.

About 20 players are already involved in moving floating foundation technologies from the early-concept stage through to commercial deployment. This maturation is likely to require another 15 years, and there are no existing markets to tap for commercial-scale floating offshore wind technologies, according to the report.

A robust go-to-market strategy is critical for overcoming the barriers floating wind faces. For floating foundations, large deep-water markets are characterised by high population density near coastlines, deep water and highly developed economies. Japan, the US west coast, Western Europe and the Republic of Korea often top the list of attractive end-game markets for floating foundations.