SBM Offshore: Floating Wind Technology Is the Future (Interview)

Pilot floating wind farm projects such as the ones recently approved in France provide floating technology developers with a chance to demonstrate that their products can be a part of the future energy mix, Joost Heemskerk, SBM Offshore’s Renewable Energy Product Line Director told Offshore WIND.

Joost Heemskerk, Renewable Energy Product Line Director at SBM Offshore.

In November 2016, SBM Offshore, a Dutch-based floating production and mooring systems designer and manufacturer, won a contract to deliver three floating platforms for the 24MW Provence Grand Large pilot wind energy project being developed by EDF Energies Nouvelles in Faraman area in the Mediterranean.

The project will feature three 8MW Siemens turbines installed on floating foundations built by SBM Offshore and designed in collaboration with France’s IFP Energies Nouvelles (IFPEN).

OW: Why did EDF EN decide to go with SBM Offshore’s floating wind foundations system?

JH: We believe that SBM Offshore’s unique wind floater technology offers a competitive and cost-effective solution. The floater comprises only field-proven components. It is light and modular, has low motions and accelerations at nacelle level, and requires no construction or port infrastructure. Easily installable with light and standard means, the floater also has a reduced seabed footprint and is simple to decommission, leading to a competitive cost of energy.

OW: When do you expect the EPCI contract for the three floating wind foundations for the Provence Grand Large project could be signed and carried out?

JH: EDF Energies Nouvelles is responsible for the project development and execution planning. The timing is subject to discussion with the French authorities and all the stakeholders.

OW: How much has the experience SBM Offshore gained through activities in other offshore energy industries helped in the process of designing the floating wind turbine foundation?

JH: SBM Offshore’s experience in providing almost 50 large floating production systems, more than 100 mooring systems and 500 CALM terminals over the last 60 years has provided the solid foundation upon which we built the technological development for our wind floater design. In depth review of the many lessons learned from the EPCI and operations of SBM Offshore’s floating systems projects in a variety of geographical locations and environments contributed to the design. Our expertise covers the entire value chain from engineering design to procurement, construction, offshore Installation (EPCI) and operation & maintenance.

OW: SBM Offshore teamed up with IFPEN to further develop the system, with the French research institute providing engineering services to SBM Offshore for the Provence Grand Large project. How important has their input been and where is it mirrored in the design of the system?

JH: The wind turbine and floater have strong interaction in the response to the combined wind/wave loads it is subject to. Therefore, designing cost competitive floating wind foundations requires strong coupled wind turbine – floater design tools and knowledge that allow for fast design iterations internally and with the wind turbine manufacturers. For this and other purposes SBM Offshore and IFPEN have teamed up.

OW: Has your collaboration with IFPEN been one of the factors which led to SBM Offshore’s system being chosen for the Provence Grand Large project?

JH: We certainly believe that this is the case. IFPEN is a well-recognized institute in France and beyond and brings added value to our proposal.

OW: Is the floating wind foundations market something SBM Offshore seriously considers, and are there any future projects in the pipeline?

JH: SBM Offshore recognizes the vital need to innovate and continues to invest in R&D for renewable energy. We have been working on renewable energy for about ten years now as we foresaw the shift in the world’s energy mix and the rapidly changing demographics that are influencing the future of the market. SBM Offshore is adapting to this and the heightened concern for climate change with increased focus on its solutions in renewable energy. SBM Offshore’s selection by EDF Energies Nouvelles to provide a floating wind systems solution for its pilot offshore France is an excellent example of how our past experience is allowing us to make first steps for a smooth transition into this sector.

OW: Some say floating wind foundations are one of the best choices for countries such as Japan. Do you see SBM Offshore entering Asia Pacific offshore wind market once you have the commercial product?

JH: SBM Offshore is established worldwide and we have always been ready to follow and support the market to create value for our clients.

OW: You have also been developing a solution for wave energy, and considering tidal and OTEC energies as some sort of a next step. How far along is SBM Offshore with plans for these sectors?

JH: While we have built up technical and commercial capabilities in tidal and OTEC, our current focus is to further develop our floating wind and wave energy activities. We will continue to closely monitor other marine renewable sectors.

OW: We see a rising number of companies from oil and gas expanding their reach into the offshore wind market lately. What are your views on this matter? Do you think offshore wind provides a good playing field for both oil and gas giants and their supply chain?

JH: Oil and gas companies and their supply chain can indeed bring their technical, offshore project execution, financial and commercial capabilities to the benefit of the offshore wind market. And floating wind projects particularly would benefit from strong offshore experience. So yes, I believe offshore wind is a playing field for those experienced O&G players.

Offshore WIND Staff; Photos: SBM Offshore