World’s First Floating Wind Farm in Scotland, the Hywind Project

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floating wind farm
"A semi-submersible type floating offshore wind turbine foundation called the WindFloat operating at rated capacity (2MW) approximately 5km offshore of Agucadoura, Portugal." | Wikimedia Commons

Almost two years after the Scottish government made a deal with the Norwegian oil company Statoil to build five wind turbines off the northeast coast of Scotland, the world’s first floating wind farm has now taken shape.

In 2015, the Scottish government has approved the development of the world’s first and largest floating offshore wind farm off the coast of Peterhead. Dubbed as the Hywind project, the floating wind farm will generate enough energy to power 20,000 homes.

The Hywind project will be composed of multiple wind turbines mounted on floating structures that will allow each turbine to generate electricity in water where the depths prohibit bottom-mounted towers to be built.

Hywind Project wind farm now being set up off the northeastern coast of #Scotland.Click To Tweet

The first giant turbine has already been moved in place from a fjord on the Western coast of Norway. The remaining four are still waiting to be tugged across the North sea to Northeast Scotland.

The Hywind Project

The Hywind turbines will make use of a revolutionary technology that will allow wind power to be harvested in waters that are more than 40 meters deep.

“It’s almost unlimited. Currently, we are saying [floating wind farms will work in] water depths of between 100 and 700 meters, but I think we can go deeper than that. It opens up ocean that was unavailable,” Irene Rummelhoff, head of the oil firm’s low-carbon division, said.

There are more than 40 other floating wind farm projects being developed in different parts of the world today. However, the Hywind project is considered to be the first full-scale deployment of a floating wind farm.

hywind project
Two of the floating turbines awaiting to be tugged off the coast of Norway to Scotland. | CC: Bloomberg via Getty

A Hywind turbine uses a 78-meter-tall underwater ballast and three mooring lines attached to the seabed to keep it upright. It also has a tower that measures up to 175 meters, including its blades, with each weighing 11,500 tons. Its design is said to be inspired by rugged oil and gas rigs that have weathered storms for decades.

According to Leif Delp, project director of Hywind:

“This is a tech development project to ensure it’s working in open sea conditions. It’s a game-changer for floating wind power and we are sure it will help bring costs down.”

Currently, more than 90% of offshore wind turbines are found in Northern Europe. This is a good spot because of the uniquely shallow waters where turbines can be easily mounted atop poles fixed to the seabed.

The U.K. is reported to be the world’s largest offshore wind market at 36% installed wind capacity, followed by Germany at 29%, and then China at 11%. Offshore wind accounts for 3% of all wind energy, with most wind turbines installed on land.

According to experts, the development of floating wind turbines is a game changer that can expedite the process of shifting energy usage from carbon emitting energies to more renewable energy.

Right now, the biggest challenge for floating wind farms is cost. The Hywind project is said to cost £200 million or over $260 million USD. However, according to Statoil, by 2030, floating wind would have the same cost as conventional offshore wind farms.

Is the development of the floating wind farm a viable solution to the growing need of humankind for more stable sources of energy?

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