Asia’s fast-growing floating wind sector already contains a depth of expertise that make several regional players candidates to be the “Orsted of APAC”, a Recharge Digital Roundtable was told.
Compared to the early days of the European market, Asia offers a “much deeper pool of experience at all levels” in key maritime and offshore energy sectors, especially as it gears up for an expected boom in floating turbine deployment, Simon Currie, principle at advisory group the Energy Estate told the online event exploring floating wind’s future in Asia.
“So who will become the APAC [Asia-Pacific] Orsted?” Currie asked during the event, moderated by Recharge Editor-in-Chief Darius Snieckus.
“Will it be Orsted? What about Petronas, which has been a trusted partner for oil & gas and maritime solutions all over the world,” said Currie, referring to Malaysia’s oil & gas giant, also citing PTT, its equivalent in Thailand, as another strong candidate.
Currie said a contender for the regional floating crown could even be Australian gas group Woodside, with access to “incredible” offshore wind potential off the nation’s west coast.
Currie also predicted that the huge scale of floating wind in Asia-Pacific – the Recharge event was told by DNV GL that the region could account for almost half the global 255GW it expects to be deployed globally by 2050 – will “fundamentally change the balance of power” in the geopolitics of energy security.
He also urged the region to look further afield to a Pacific-Rim floating wind sphere that would tap the potential of Latin American markets such as Chile and Peru, and the West Coast of the US.
'Separate the men from the boys'
One global floating wind player already active in Asia is Ideol, the France-based pioneer of platform technology which has had a full-sized turbine system in the water off Japan since 2018, successfully surviving extreme weather events and acting as a flagship for the sector outside Europe.
Ideol chief sales and marketing officer Bruno Geschier told the Recharge Digital Roundtable that a track record will be increasingly crucial for “insurability and bankability” as Asian offshore wind accelerates – a process he predicted will “separate the men from the boys”.
He pointed out that as of now there were only three technology providers with such a track record globally – Ideol itself, fellow platform pioneer Principle Power and oil & gas group turned floating wind trailblazer Equinor.
The region’s turbine OEM sector is also gearing up to play a key role in shaping floating wind in Asia and beyond, said Wei Chen, general manager for Ming Yang’s European Business & Engineering Centre.
The Chinese turbine giant is set to deploy China’s first full-scale floating prototype next year and hopes to a see a large-scale commercial project soon, said Wei.
Ming Yang is designing-in floating deployment to its turbines from the earliest stages “unlike the majority of OEMs”, said Wei, whose company has just unveiled plans for an 11MW machine that’s China largest yet.
But Wei – who is based in Hamburg, Germany – said floating platform designers need more help in their own early work. “They need stronger support from the turbine side,” he said, urging greater collaboration between floating technology groups, OEMs and developers.
Floating top of agenda
The need for collaboration – this time between governments in Asia – was stressed by Rasmus Wandrup, Chief Technology Officer for Swancor Renewables, the pioneer of fixed-foundation offshore wind in Taiwan and now with floating in its sights.
Regional cooperation could fairly spread the benefits of local content while allowing the industry to pursue cost reduction, recognizing that “not every city can get its own blade factory,” Wandrup said.
The Swancor executive said floating was an inevitable choice for the developer once it had decided it wanted to be one of the region’s biggest renewable energy players. “To be in that position you need to put floating wind at the top of your agenda,” he told the Recharge event.
But Wandrup identified a potential roadblock in the form of a lack of demonstration projects in Asia. He said these are crucial to proving floating wind’s credentials to governments and the supply chain.
William Cleverly, managing director at Offshore Wind Consultants (OWC), which is heavily involved in helping realise floating and fixed offshore wind in Asia and elsewhere, agreed that a potential “lack of interest” in early demonstrators could be an issue for the sector.
Cleverly said the sheer scale of the global floating wind ramp-up foreseen by 2050 was inherently a huge task, and warned that the O&M challenges facing the sector may still be underestimated, especially in areas such as major component replacement.
But the OWC executive also stressed the huge opportunities of the sector, and said: “Like many in the industry I was once a bit of a sceptic – I’ve now turned 180 degrees and am fully behind floating wind.”
I was once a bit of a sceptic – I’ve now turned 180 degrees.
Kevin Banister, chief development officer of Simply Blue Group, which is planning a pioneering floating wind project off Wales with oil giant Total, also enthused about the potential of the sector to transform the global renewables landscape.
“We’re able to go to where the wind is, instead of the equivalent of finding the ridge tops, with depth being a limiting factor [as with fixed-bottom offshore].
And Banister predicted that while Asian floating wind would require a steep learning curve to reach its potential, “I think in turn there will be a lot of lessons we can take to other parts of the world from projects we develop in Asia”.