Recharge4040: Johan Sandberg

Johan Sandberg’s vision is for a world that to a great degree is powered by floating offshore wind.

Although the technology is still at the pilot stage and considered much more expensive than fixed offshore wind — let alone onshore wind — Sandberg argues that floating offshore’s potential to be deployed on a massive scale, and in a standardised manner, means that in the medium term, it has the potential to be one of the world’s most competitive energy sources.

“When I first started looking at offshore wind I got excited by the sheer scale of the machinery and thought ‘wow’,” says Sandberg. “And then as I looked at the importance of climate risk and all the other issues we are facing over the next decades I realised this is probably the most important industry in the world.”

In 2013, Sandberg led DNV GL’s efforts to develop a standard for floating offshore wind turbine designs, as part of a joint industry partnership with Statoil, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, Sasebo Heavy Industries, STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Navantia, Gamesa, Iberdrola, Alstom Wind, Glosten Associates and Principle Power.

Sandberg was privileged to be chosen to lead a unique project in the context of DNV GL’s 150th anniversary this year — to come up with a renewables vision for 2050. The result was Naganshima Continental Shelf, an animated video that sets out Sandberg’s vision of a transition to a large-scale commercially viable floating offshore sector by 2050. The concept is set on the coastline of Japan, which has been in the forefront of efforts to deploy floating wind in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

“So many things are coming together in Japan,” he says. “They have huge overcapacity in the shipyards, they have fantastic competence and capability with steel, tremendous experience with lean manufacturing and of course the whole energy deficit that has put their trading balance upside down. So it’s almost like a perfect storm in Japan that will accelerate the development of floating offshore wind.”

The vision sets out the development of large-scale floating offshore in three phases.

The first phase — rather controversially — sees floating offshore wind used in offshore oil recovery between now and 2020, which Sandberg says would help the technology compete without subsidies from the start.

In the second phase, floating turbines are used to power islands and offshore platforms with baseload power, using integrated energy storage. While various types of storage are possible, in his vision, Sandberg used seabed membranes that inflate when water is pumped into them, and deflate under the weight of ballast, when evacuated water flows out through a power-generating turbine.

Phase three is what Sandberg calls “the endgame”, when floating offshore wind is competitive with any other form of energy in the world. Achieving this by 2050 may seem a big ask, but Sandberg says “anybody who looks back at the past 30 years at what the wind and solar industries have gone through since then in terms of cost reduction will see that it’s been incredible.”

In this third phase, Sandberg says it will be essential for floating wind to work in tandem with other sea users. He says DNV has been working to include fishing communities within the vision by looking at concepts such as combined fishing/maintenance vessels and aquaculture activities around the wind farms. “It’s essential that we can convince fishing communities to see offshore wind as an opportunity and not as a risk.”

On having been chosen for the Recharge4040 initiative, Sandberg says: “I don’t think there is anything that even resembles this network in the world today, so it’s incredibly exciting.”


Day to day, Oslo-based Sandberg has global responsibility for advisory services on offshore renewable energy at DNV GL, one of the world’s largest certification bodies.

He has previously worked in offshore oil and gas, risk management, and was once head of the renewable-energy department at DNV Kema.

As an active member of Recharge’s Thought Leaders club, he has called upon the industry to demonstrate a “credible pathway to a carbon-free society by igniting people’s creativity and triggering their imagination”.

Sandberg has an MSc in mechanical engineering from Lund University, Sweden, and an MBA in energy management from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Johan Sandberg is service line leader for offshore renewable energy at DNV GL-Energy

Recharge4040 brings together the world's young new-energy pioneers from the worlds of renewables technology, finance, development, social engagement and advocacy. The list includes people from major wind and solar companies, banks, investment funds, crowd-funding platforms and governments. For the full list of nominees and news about the initiative, visit the 4040 website