Power flows from mainland Europe’s maiden floating wind array

Power flows from mainland Europe’s maiden floating wind array

Continental Europe’s flagship floating wind farm, the EDP-led WindPlus consortium’s 25MW WindFloat Atlantic (WFA), is now operational, with power starting to flow from the first of the project’s trio of units on 31 December.

The second turbine at the array, which is connected from its site in 100 metres of water in the Portuguese Atlantic to the onshore grid at Viana do Castello via a 20km export cable, was towed out last month and will be linked up in the coming weeks, with the final unit to follow before both are “connected successively, until they reach [full capacity]”, said a spokesperson.

Once all online, the three WFA units, each fitted with an 8.3MW MHI Vestas V164 turbine, will contribute to producing power to supply 60,000 homes.

“The commissioning of the WFA project demonstrates the maturity and commercial readiness of floating offshore wind technology. As the first bank-financed floating wind farm in the world, it proves the financial viability of floating technology and provides new opportunities for sustainable investment,” said Principle Power CEO João Metelo.

“Wide deployment of this game-changing technology around the world would strengthen energy security and help governments tackle the climate crisis quickly and at scale, while creating jobs and fostering economic growth.”

The WindFloat concept, a three-column, steel semisubmersible developed by WindPlus partner Principle Power, was the second design – after Equinor’s 2.3MW Hywind Demo off Norway – to get an industrial-scale model into the water, with the 2MW WF1 prototype operating in the Portuguese Atlantic from 2011-2016 under a “full life-cycle” prototype project.

WFA marks not only a milestone for the floating wind industry in Europe as the first project to reach switch-on since the world’s maiden array, Equinor’s 30MW Hywind Scotland, in 2017, but also as the first to be built without heavy-lift construction vessels, a key cost-reduction area for the sector as it tries to shave down its levellised cost of energy (LCOE) to compete with bottom-fixed offshore wind.

Along with EDP and Principle Power, the other two members of WindPlus are France’s Engie and Spain’s Repsol.

European wind industry advocacy body WindEurope figures over 300MW of floating capacity will be switched on in Europe by 2021 led by a raft of projects off the UK, France, Portugal and Norway.

Analysts range widely in their 2030 forecasts for floating wind, with estimates spread from as little as 6GW up to almost 19GW, all influenced by how quickly levellised cost of energy numbers can be brought down to below €50/MWh ($55/MWh), to be competitive with conventional offshore wind.