In March of this year, the U.S. Department of Energy released a strategy to popularize offshore wind power, with the goal of increasing the installed capacity of offshore wind power from tens of thousands of kilowatts now to 110 million kilowatts by 2050. Currently popularized around the world are bed-type wind turbines fixed on the seabed, which are suitable for shallow-water beaches and are difficult to apply in waters deeper than 50 meters, and therefore are not yet commercially available on a large scale. Floating systems that allow power generation equipment to float on the sea have become the key to the U.S. offshore wind power strategy. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jenny Granholm emphasized, “This is one of the most promising clean energy technologies of the 21st century, and will enable the U.S. to achieve carbon-free electricity by 2035.”
In addition to the U.S., Europe is stepping up its efforts to promote the practicalization of floating offshore wind power; Asian countries have also begun to deploy floating wind power development. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun commented that floating offshore wind power is expected to set off a wave of energy innovation.
Toward the deep sea
As a low-cost and safe energy source, offshore wind is increasingly seen as the centerpiece of global decarbonization.
But research shows that most of the world’s wind energy resources are located in waters deeper than 60 meters. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 2/3 of U.S. offshore wind resources are located in deep water. Deep and distant sea area is large, wind power is good, water depth of more than 50 meters of wind energy density is about 2-4 times the offshore area.
With the development of offshore wind energy resources will tend to saturation, offshore wind power to the deep and distant sea has been the trend, and the water depth of more than 60 meters of the sea is suitable for floating offshore wind power development model.
According to the U.S. cable news network (CNN) reported that floating offshore wind farms have a huge energy potential, can produce more energy than solar panels or onshore wind energy. Granholm said last year that floating turbines are expected to generate up to 2.8 billion kilowatts of clean energy in the future, more than twice the current U.S. electricity demand.
Canada’s Priority Research predicts that the global floating wind power market will reach about $69.8 billion in 2030.
Europe and the United States compete
There are many countries competing to develop and deploy floating offshore wind power.
According to CNN, the first full-size floating offshore wind turbine in the U.S. will tower above the waves of the Gulf of Maine, with blades up to 236 meters in diameter, and is scheduled to be operational by 2030, and is expected to generate as much as 15,000 kilowatts of clean electricity, enough to power thousands of homes. There are reportedly 10 such turbines.
Currently, there are only 20 such floating offshore wind turbines in the world, mainly located in Europe. Experts say that these floating turbines are the future of the wind industry and each project is expected to provide clean power to 750,000 households.
Henrik Stilsdal, the Danish inventor of the wind turbine, estimates that floating offshore wind could eventually provide half of the electricity for the U.S. East and West coasts, and Europe has set a goal of obtaining half of its electricity from floating offshore wind by mid-century.
In September 2022, the Biden administration announced a plan to install 15 million kilowatts of floating offshore wind power by 2035.
Europe is at the forefront of offshore wind and is stepping up its efforts to make it practical. Scotland introduced the world’s largest floating wind power development plan, ready to develop in about 8,000 square kilometers of sea area with an installed capacity of 28 million kilowatts of offshore wind power, of which about six become floating wind turbines. Norway plans to build more floating offshore wind farms before 2030. The United Kingdom also plans to build a million kilowatts of floating offshore wind power facilities by 2030.
Asia to promote
Japan has also begun to promote floating wind power development. In Nagasaki Prefecture, off the coast of the Gotojima Islands, Toda Construction Co. has begun promoting the construction of floating wind turbines. Although small in scale, this is the first of its kind in Japan. The company will test whether floating wind turbines can withstand the impact of huge typhoons. The company will also cooperate with Osaka University and plans to conduct demonstration tests of 10,000 kilowatts of floating wind turbines by 2025.
In November last year, the government of Wanning City in China’s Hainan Province signed a strategic cooperation agreement with CEC’s Hainan branch to invest in the country’s first million-kilowatt floating offshore wind power test project. According to relevant reports, the project completed the review of the feasibility study in September 2022, and is planned to be constructed in two phases, in which the first phase of the construction scale of 200,000 kilowatts is planned to be put into operation before 2025, and the second phase of the scale of 800,000 kilowatts is planned to be put into operation by the end of 2027, according to the relevant reports.