One of the consequences of offshore wind’s astonishing growth plans is the need to get along with an ever-growing array of maritime neighbours, such as the military, commercial shipping and – so far most challenging of all – the fishing industry.
The world’s fishing fleets have not been shy of showing their anger when they feel their livelihoods are threatened by turbine developments, and Iberdrola is currently feeling the full force of French fury at its Saint-Brieuc development, where scallop boats this week again surrounded a vessel working on the project.
The direct action is another headache for Saint-Brieuc, which has already suffered years of bureaucratic delays and, more recently, an accidental oil spillage that forced a foundation installation vessel to leave the site.
In the US, meanwhile, the lobster lobby showed its claws when the industry hailed a political victory as Maine banned development in state waters. This leaves the pioneering Aqua Ventus floating wind pilot project being run out of the University of Maine with RWE and Diamond Offshore as potentially the only offshore wind that gets built off the Pine Tree state.
Conflict negotiation will only become more commonplace as the construction of offshore wind plant ramps up globally – expansion which will need to be explosive if the build-out of renewables is to measure up to International Energy Agency calculations of the deployment rates needed to meet Paris targets.
This fact was underlined by Orsted and Equinor CEOs this week as they each highlighted that leasing of new offshore wind acreage is urgently needed if governments around the world are to hit stretching targets they have set for the sector as part of their energy transition plans.
All this gives more gloss to the idea of building wind plants far beyond these sources of conflict – in the plentiful deepwater acreage that covers 75% of the planet, where waters are beyond the reach of bottom-fixed turbine foundations.
The speed of progress being made by the floating wind sector, which aims to make the leap to industrialisation this decade as its cost base is rapidly streamlined, was mirrored this week anew by next-generation designs stepping up the gears, with Sweden’s Hexicon seeing its twin-turbine design sail through model tests in the Netherlands and Spain’s X1Wind land a multi-million-euro grant to move its downwind concept through to commercialisation.
And floating is not just for turbines, of course, with Hitachi ABB and BW Ideol announcing plans to build floating substations together, while OEM Vestas’ turbines being delivered for the Arcadis Ost offshore wind farm in the German Baltic are to be installed using a potential game-changing floating vessel from Heerema rather than the conventional jack-up.
The wider applications of floating wind were highlighted too with a “mobile power concept” from Odfjell Oceanwind that promises to cut emissions from offshore oil & gas operations by as much as 70% receiving anointment from classification body DNV.
The scale of the world’s green energy growth ambitions are now so mind-boggling that it’s often hard to see how they can be met. The hard fact is they won’t be, unless we harness the equally astonishing potential of digitalisation to revolutionise every aspect of the energy transition from equipment design to operations & maintenance.
That was the message from Recharge’s latest roundtable on Digitalisation & the Future of Energy, which heard how digital tools are helping manage the market volatility that is now an everyday challenge for wind and solar operators – embodied by the Covid crisis, which forced forecasts to be ripped up and recalculated as never before.
Panelists from Siemens Gamesa, ABB Motion, Natural Power, Akselos and Grid Singularity gave delegates an expert insight into the technologies often described as the “tools of the fourth industrial revolution”.
If you missed the roundtable live, a complete replay is available here.