Floating Solar Not Yet Up to Par to Be Brought into Offshore Wind Tenders, Says BP’s Benelux Head of Offshore Wind

System integration is what is needed for the next leap in offshore wind, however, not all technologies that can integrate with offshore wind farms have the same starting point. Floating solar still has some way to go in becoming more resilient to harsh offshore conditions. On the other hand, hydrogen is a more ready option with plenty of support from the industry, but it needs to be included and clearly defined in offshore wind tenders.

This is according to Frank Oomen, Head of Offshore Wind Benelux at BP, who discussed financial and qualitative criteria in offshore wind auctions during the Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference 2023 (OEEC 2023).

Speaking about recently joining BP from the renewables industry, Oomen pointed out that, with offshore wind becoming larger scale, it needs to move in the direction of system integration and become an integrated energy business itself.

“Offshore wind on itself is big, it’s great, it will become huge – and all those electrons have to come to shore. That’s a concern, as people from TenneT can tell you, to get the electrons on shore. But then, the next concern is to get all these electrons, one way or another, absorbed in the energy system. And doing so we need hydrogen, we need other solutions. So, we need this integrated solution and that’s where I feel BP can make the difference”, Frank Oomen said, adding that the company’s strengths lie in the experience and expertise with large projects and being able to handle hydrogen.

In his talk about offshore wind auctions, Oomen emphasised that system integration in offshore wind is necessary as the projects grow larger and as the industry, primarily in the Netherlands, has reached a point where it no longer requires subsidies.

Last year, the Dutch government set qualitative criteria in its Hollandse Kust West (HKW) tender, including nature-positive solutions and system integration, with similar requirements now added to the upcoming tender for IJmuiden Ver Alpha and Beta as well.

As reported a year ago, RWE was awarded HKW Site VII, where the company will integrate floating solar technology into the offshore wind farm and is already working on the project’s battery storage. In 2022, RWE said it also planned to invest in onshore system integration such as electrolysis capacity for hydrogen production and e-boilers. HKW Site VI was secured by Ecowende (Shell and Eneco), whose project includes several nature-inclusive and nature-positive solutions, and is deemed “the most ecological wind farm yet.”

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Although a strong proponent of system integration, Frank Oomen says that floating solar technology development “isn’t there yet to bring that into the tender”.

Having worked in developing inland floating solar projects, Oomen says that these are built at sites where the waves in the harsh winter are not that high, and with subsidies.

“So, subsidised, it is possible to develop a floating solar project where the waves in the harsh winter are maybe knee high. Now in the current tender, it is assumed to build a large chunk of floating solar offshore, in really harsh conditions where there [are] not 50 centimetres but 15 metres of wave that they have to survive, at the stage where the technology is not that far yet. So in fact, the offshore wind development is burdened by developing a different technology.”

For integrated offshore wind-to-hydrogen projects, Oomen sees strong opportunities and growth, but he also says that these projects need the right support and further work on the system integration part of the tenders.

Once there is a solid business case for the offshore wind part of a proposal, it can carry the entire project through a tender, including system integration.

“[You are] required for the tender you want to deliver on the system integration but one part of the chain does not do the math, it does not work. In order to make that system integration work also, that part needs to have a different form of support. It doesn’t mean money, it can also be de-risking,” Frank Oomen said on 28 November in his talk at OEEC’s The Stage.

Oomen also provided insights and opinions on the ecological criteria and financial bids. To learn what Frank Oomen had to say on the setup of offshore wind tenders, watch his The Stage talk in the video:

View on Vimeo.

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