Norwegian energy company Statoil ASA has just been officially granted a lease permitting them to build what will be the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm off the East coast of Scotland.
Permission for the project, called Hywind Scotland, was first granted back in November last year. At the time, one of Statoil’s senior executives, Irene Rummelhof, described the “unique” project as representing “a new, significant and increasingly competitive renewable energy source”.
She said “Statoil’s objective with developing this pilot park is to demonstrate a commercial, utility-scale floating wind solution, to further increase the global market potential.”
Floating offshore wind farms represent an important breakthrough in renewable energy, given the potential to harness power from the huge amounts of wind generated out in the deep ocean.
Conventional offshore wind farms consist of turbines built on steel and concrete platforms on the seabed. This is fine for sites relatively close to the coast, where depths don’t exceed more than around 30-40m, but as soon as the ocean gets deeper, costs skyrocket.
Inspired by technology used to prevent large offshore oil rigs from being damaged by extreme weather, these turbines float on the surface of the sea, and are secured sea floor to keep them in place.
The Hywind project places Statoil at the front of a global race to achieve a fully commercially viable form of deep ocean wind energy generation, with companies in the US and Japan also competing. It is one of around 40 comparable projects currently underway around the world.
Hywind will consist of five large turbines, each with the ability to generate 6 mega watts of power, placed about 15 miles off the East coast of Scotland, near Peterhead.
Statoil have just been officially granted leases from the Crown Estate, allowing them to build on the area of the seabed designated. Gaining planning permission for this kind of site, so far from the coast, is far easier than for onshore wind farms, where all too often groups rally against their construction, worried about the impact on the aesthetic of the local environment.
The head of the Hywind project, Leif Delp, said: “We are very pleased to develop this project in Scotland, in a region with a huge wind resource and an experienced supply chain from oil and gas.
“Through the hard work of industry and supportive government policies, the UK and Scotland is taking a position at the forefront of developing offshore wind as a competitive new energy source.”
Despite widespread criticism over the current government’s renewables policies (or lack thereof), the UK is slowly but surely pushing ahead in terms of green energy generation.
More than 90% of the world’s offshore wind energy is produced in Europe (specifically Northern Europe), and by a not insubstantial margin, the UK is leading the charge, producing around 40% of that total.
Floating offshore wind marks an important step on the road because of its huge generational potential, and therefore its ability to push Europe and the UK even further forwards, helping the global fight against climate change.
Currently, just 3% of the world’s wind power is generated offshore, but as commercially viable forms of deep ocean offshore wind power generation come along, this number is only set to go up.
Lindsay Roberts of Scottish Renewables welcomed the news of the Statoil gaining the lease for Hywind. She said: “Floating offshore wind is an exciting technology with huge, global potential, and it’s great to have this world first in Scottish waters.”