International energy company Statoil has recognized the importance of climate change and sustainability: in the UK, it has already invested in several offshore wind-parks, and is currently developing capacity to supply over 500.000 homes with sustainable energy. Its latest project represents the breakthrough in the era of renewable energy; the Hywind will be the world’s first floating wind farm, just off the Scottish coast. Innovation, the company believes, is the only way forward.
The Hywind facility places traditional wind turbines on top of floating steel cylinders, which are held in place by cables and suction anchors. The cylinders float 78 meters below sea level and hold large pockets of air. The wind farm installations are being constructed off the west coast of Norway, where the 162-meter tall turbines are loaded onto the floating steel cylinders by the world’s second largest crane vessel, the Saipem 7000. For its wind farms, Statoil has adapted the same technology used for its floating oil facilities, known as spar platforms.
A major advantage of floating wind farms is that they can be built in areas unsuitable for traditional wind farms. Fixed windmills can only be built in waters up to 60 meters deep. These restrictions do not apply to floating wind farms, which can benefit from stronger winds in deepwater areas. Hywind demonstrates that steel has a crucial role to play in the development of sustainable energy resources. Offshore wind farms face rough weather conditions and durable materials are vital to their success.
Statoil believes the Hywind project will revolutionize the way offshore wind farms are built. Traditional turbines need to be custom made, but floating windmills can be produced on an industrial scale. The cost per megawatt has already been reduced by 60 per cent since Hywind’s initial project. In the long run, production costs of floating wind farms could go down even more as Statoil actively looks to expand its existing supplier network and build a global supply chain.