Tom Harries examines the past, present, and future of floating offshore wind technologies
Floating wind is set to take a greater share of offshore wind installations in future. But for all the headlines, articles and conferences, there is still only tens of megawatts of operational floating wind capacity installed today. Regulators, developers, the supply chain, lenders, sponsors and insurers all face the challenge of bridging the technology and experience gap from single turbine demonstrators to multi-turbine commercial arrays.
Defining the maturity of floating wind technology is tricky. Most of the components are mature, with track records lasting decades. For example, except for some controls and a thicker tower, the turbines are mostly the same as those used in conventional, bottom-fixed offshore wind. While foundation and tether designs are either borrowed or evolved from floating oil and gas platforms. Cables will have static and dynamic sections, again like those found in offshore oil and gas applications. The immaturity of floating offshore wind technology is in the system – the new application and combination of mature components.
One way to describe the maturity of new technologies is using NASA’s technology readiness levels (TRLs) (see image). With several pre-commercial, multi-turbine demonstrators in operation, floating wind, as a system, has already reached TRL 7. With more turbines deployed, manufacturing at scale, and full commercial O&M programs the latest projects are aiming to jump to TRL 8.