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First floating wind project off Ireland heads for water

Offshore oil & gas contractor Saipem to test new advanced spar concept as part of €31m EU project

Ireland could see a first full-scale floating wind turbine installed off its shores in 2022, following the award of €31m in EU finance to an European industrial consortium led by Scotland’s European Marine Energy Centre (Emec) .

The AFLOWT (Accelerating market uptake of Floating Offshore Wind Technology) project, with counts partners from Ireland, the UK, France, the Netherlands and Germany, will test an advanced spar-based concept from Italian offshore oil & gas contractor Saipem, a new entrant into a market that until now has had only handful of designs trialed at commercial-scale, including units from Equinor, Principle Power and Ideol.

The floater, for which a turbine has not yet been chosen, will be trialed at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEIA) Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site, off the west coast of the country. A Saipem spokesperson told Recharge “next steps are performing the detail engineering and selecting the OEM”.

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“SEAI welcomes this initial step of gaining support from Interreg [funding]. We recognise that there are many significant steps to be taken to deliver this ambitious project and we will work with all project partners and local and national stakeholders to maximise local and national benefits,” said SEIA CEO Jim Gannon.

“This project will show Ireland’s strengths, not only in terms of its significant wind resources, but also as a responsive, innovative and agile country”.

Stefano Porcari, CEO of Saipem, which earlier this month announced plans to work with compatriot KiteGen to develop high altitude wind energy technology, stated: “Saipem continues its commitment to diversify its core business to offering modern solutions to the renewable energy market. This project represents for us a unique opportunity to prove our floating wind technology in severe environments.

“This full-scale floating turbine complements the integrated services part of Saipem’s fixed offshore wind capabilities,” he added.

Oliver Wragg, Emec’s commercial director, said the “wealth of knowledge and expertise” built up over the past 15 years at its marine renewable R&D centre in the Orkney Islands would “now be transferred to the testing and demonstration of floating wind to help it make the most cost effective and rapid transition to commercialisation” adding: “If floating wind technology can operate reliably and efficiently on the west coast of Ireland, it will work anywhere.

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The other partners in the project are France’s Cable Life Cycle Assurance (CaLiCyA), Marin, the Maritime Research Institute of the Netherlands, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy Systems, and the University College Cork and Electricity Supply Board Engineering & Major Projects from Ireland.

Latest calculations from wind industry advocacy body WindEurope suggest some 350MW of floating wind capacity will be switched on in Europe by 2021 via a raft of projects off the UK, France, Portugal and Norway.

From a single industrial-scale prototype in 2009, floating wind has progressed at a clip toward commercialisation. Many analyst forecasts, including those of UK low-carbon business development body Carbon Trust, point to a fleet as large as 15GW by 2030.

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