Norwegian energy giant Equinor has further geared-up its acceleration into floating wind power through a deal with developer RES and financial consultancy Green Giraffe to build projects in the waters off France.

The new venture, Océole, plans to submit bids in the upcoming floating wind tenders being held by the French government, which aims to have 6.8GW offshore wind by 2028 to support its 2050 net zero goal.

Equinor’s senior vice president for renewables business development, Jens Økland, said: “France has set an ambition of becoming among the top markets for floating offshore wind in the next decade. Together with RES and Green Giraffe, we are ready to contribute long term to the country’ ambitious offshore wind plans and develop what could potentially be the first commercial floating offshore wind farm in France.

“As Océole, we have the industrial competence, technical and financial skills to develop projects where we can create value and capture the benefits of scale for this exciting technology.”

Equinor’s vice president for New Energy Solutions, Pål Eitrheim, told Recharge in an exclusive interview last month, that floating wind was “high on [its] agenda”, as it expanded its wider international offshore wind ambitions.

Equinor has been a pioneer in floating wind, launching the world's maiden industrial scale unit, Hywind Demo, off Norway in 2008, developing the first array of floating units, 30MW Hywind Scotland, brought online in 2017, and currently in the midst of building the 88MW Hywind Tampen project, an 11 platform project that will supply power to the Snorre-Gullfaks offshore oil complex, reducing CO2 emissions from the hydrocarbon production by a third, according to the company.

In May, French energy regulator CRE kicked off the preliminary process for the tender for a 230-270MW floating wind project, foreseen being the world’s largest when it enters operation later this decade. This will be the first of three rounds for 250MW floating wind arrays, with two more are slated to follow next year, for acreage in the Mediterranean Sea.

France currently has four multi-unit pilots, each of about 25MW, under development: Provence Grand Large, Leucate, Gruissan and Groix.

Floating wind markets are on the verge of explosive growth globally with analysts expecting a near-1,000-fold expansion of the current fleet as international supply chains take shape to support development of commercial-scale projects around the world, including in key markets in Europe’s northern seas such as France, Norway and Scotland, as well off the US west coast and in Asia Pacific region, where DNV believes half of a forecast 260GW of worldwide floating wind forecast will be turning by 2050.