Asian markets – and especially South Korea – are well placed to rapidly emerge as floating wind power pacesetters, if they can close a gap between ambitions national targets and the realities facing projects on the ground, a Recharge digital roundtable heard.

Asia is widely seen as the next big frontier for offshore wind in general, with floating turbines tipped to play a key role in deep waters off key markets such as Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and regional powerhouse China, which together are forecast to grow into a 130GW fleet by 2050, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Rhodri James, lead business developer for Norwegian energy group Equinor, told Recharge’s Asia Floating Wind digital roundtable that South Korea – where the company is involved in two large-scale floating projects – has all the ingredients for rapid success.

James named South Korea and Japan as “standout markets” in a region where “we think the opportunities for floating will open up quite quickly”.

In the case of South Korea, James said: “There is an opportunity to take commercial-scale projects forward faster than in other markets… to get this online in the next five or six years – that puts it ahead of other markets.”

James added: “Given the supply chain capability there, we think there’s a great opportunity to prove how it could industrialise things and bring costs down, and really [be] a springboard for other Asian markets and globally.”

South Korean president Moon Jae-in recently reaffirmed his backing for 6GW of floating wind power off its coasts as part of a wider 12GW 2030 offshore wind goal in a nation that has seen several false starts for the sector.

Pierre-Antoine Tetard, vice president for business development at Spanish floating wind start-up BlueFloat, agreed that South Korea has strong credentials and is “very well positioned from a supply chain perspective.

“In Asia, in particular in Korea, it’s all up and running. Infrastructure, shipyards, know-how, engineering – everything is there.”

But he added that Asian markets generally need to make sure they address “an imbalance between offshore wind targets that governments have, and the administrative resources made available to advance permitting and licensing”.

'Mistakes of fixed-bottom'

Bruno Geschier, chairman of the Floating Offshore Wind Committee for industry body World Forum Offshore Wind, said the president’s support was “good news”, but like Tetard said in some cases across Asia there is still a “quite a discrepancy” between political will and the ability to advance large-scale deployment.

Geschier also warned that floating wind must not “repeat the mistakes” of fixed-bottom offshore wind by seeing early progress concentrated on just one region.

“Floating wind, unlike fixed-bottom, should not be starting only in one continent but can deployed across the globe at much the same speed.”

Despite these caveats, panellists were unanimous over the incredible potential of floating wind across Asia, which Recharge Editor-in-Chief and event moderator Darius Snieckus pointed out is tipped to “emerge over the next 30 years to account for half of the global several-hundred-gigawatt total floating wind plant capacity as the epicentre of the sector shifts eastward”.

Robert Ludwigson, vice president, business development at Chinese CIMC Raffles, the Chinese yard with ambitions in floating and fixed-bottom offshore wind, said the floating sector can make inroads – and share development costs – by partnering with other industries such as aquaculture, as his own company is doing.

Alex Raventos, CEO of X1 Wind, the downwind floating turbine pioneer, joined many panelists in stressing the importance of scale – “adapting designs that can be used at scale, modularisation and with the ability to adapt to local conditions”.

And as the floating sector sets out to address the crucial issue of cost, in Asia and globally, Wei Chen, general manager for the Ming Yang European Business & Engineering Center said the turbine sector would play a crucial role by integrating supersized machines more deeply into future designs.

“Floaters are expensive, so larger turbines can bring down the levelised cost-of energy,” the Chinese OEM executive told the Recharge event.

If you missed the live Recharge Digital Roundtable, a replay of the event is available here.