Norwegian energy major Equinor has signed French contractor Technip Energies to carry out lead-off engineering for the platforms for the giant Firefly floating wind project off South Korea, on track to be the world’s largest deepwater array.

The work, which will be based on Technip Energies INO15 concept “in alignment” with Equinor’s Wind Semi semisubmersible design, marks a significant milestone for the 800MW project planned slated to be online by 2027 off the coast of Ulsan.

“We are very happy to bring the combined experience of Equinor and Technip Energies from floating wind projects in harsh environments in the North Sea to the Firefly project; one of the first floating offshore wind farms in South Korea, one of the first large scale floating wind farms ever realised, and also the world’s largest floating wind farm when it starts operation,” said Do-Hyun Park, deputy project director for Firefly.

“This project will spearhead the Equinor Wind Semi, a floating substructure that builds on our combined experience, and is also well suited for the South Korean value chain. Together with Technip Energies we are confident we can find cost effective substructure solutions that also create strong opportunities for local value creations.”

Willy Gauttier, vice president Technip Energies offshore wind business, said: “We are building for the future in South Korea and have established a core team dedicated to floating wind.

“We have a long track record working with the local supply chain, having executed projects in Korea for many years. Our aspiration now is to contribute to building the floating wind industry in the country, fostering the energy transition.”

The deal, for so-called Feed (front end engineering design) on the platforms, is a key next step for Firefly, following deployment of wind resource-capturing Lidars in 2020 and receipt last year of an ‘electric business licences’ for the project, located in 150-300-metres of water 70km offshore.

Technip Energies was an early mover in the floating wind space, developing an innovative design in the 2010s called the VertiWind, before withdrawing from the sector. The transitioning oil & gas contactor then returned last year – as Recharge reported exclusively – with plans for the INO15 concept.

Equinor’s pioneered floating wind globally using its spar platform on the Hywind Demo and later 30MW Hywind Scotland, the world’s first commercial deepwater wind array, brought online in 2015. The Wind Semi, a lower-draft steel three-column semisubersible, was launched at COP26 last year.

Despite slow-rolling progress up to now in fulfilling its potential – the nation has barely 100MW in operation or construction offshore – South Korea is widely tipped to emerge as a major Asian market for wind at sea in the second part of the 2020s, with a government target for 12GW in place by 2030.

Floating technology is seen as a particularly attractive prospect for the South Korean market, given the better wind conditions in deeper waters further from shore and the lower level of potential conflict with other sea users.

Floating wind power’s global build-out this decade has been forecast by the Global Wind Energy Council to reach over 16GW, though some analysts remain concerned outdated current government policy frameworks have the potential of limiting the sector to deploying as little as 5GW by 2030.