France’s flagship floating wind turbine, the FloatGen prototype, turned in record production through the second half of 2019, more than doubling the output churned out in its first six months of operation after installation, and giving a fillip to the European country’s offshore wind ambitions.

The pioneering unit, made up a 2MW Vestas turbine set atop Ideol’s ‘damping pool’ platform, achieved annual output of some 6GWh, with uptime exceeding 94.6% at an “above average” capacity factor during its “second semester” at the SEM-Rev test site in the French Atlantic.

“From these results we can see that the technology is really realising its promise – we can see this compared to the first spar [Equinor’s Hywind design at Hywind Scotland] and semisub [Principle Power WindFloat 1] units,” Ideol CEO Paul de la Guérivière told Recharge. “It demonstrates that we have a solution that from a technical point of view is very competitive.

“More widely, this is confirmation that floating wind has passed a turning a point – this is not a technology at the development stage, that is behind us. It is now about moving into the commercial phase and the multi-hundred megawatt projects.”

He noted: “The wind turbine remained fully operational throughout these first winter months, producing power in up to 5.5 meters of significant wave height and up to 24.2 metres per second of wind speed, once again confirming the absence of the impact of the movements induced by the floater on the power production.”

FloatGen’s performance has been verified and validated US classification body ABS, which has also evaluated the fully coupled simulation tools used by Ideol, re-running a number of load cases and comparing the simulation results with measurements taken offshore.

Ideol is in one of four consortia currently building floating wind arrays off France that have been given the formal go-ahead by the European authorities.

The company has a second prototype installed off Japan, where last year it signed a memorandum of understanding with Japanese construction and civil engineering giant Taisei – the conglomerate responsible for many of the island nation’s major infrastructure projects, including the 2020 Olympic Stadium in Tokyo – to mass produce concrete versions of its floating foundation.

In the UK, it announced last year that it is tying up with Belgian offshore wind developer Elicio to develop projects off Scotland, with the pair currently preparing a bid for the ScotWind leasing round about to be launched by UK seabed landlord the Crown Estate.

France has struggled to get steel in the water in developing its considerable offshore wind resource, with its lead-off award of large-scale bottom-fixed developments in 2012 becoming mired in regulatory delays and the first of those projects – the 480MW Saint-Nazaire offshore wind array – now due to enter service in 2022.

France’s wind power association, FEE, has been lobbying the country’s government for several years to hold a 2GW tender targeting commercial-scale floating projects as a launch-pad to switching on as much as 6GW by 2030.