“Scaling these projects from one turbine to five turbines to 11 turbines has brought these cost reductions. Scale is really important to make further cost reductions and to make floating wind more competitive. We expect that in the next ten years it will be very competitive with fixed wind, but scale is needed for that and that comes with industrialization and volume through mass production. We need policymakers and authorities to be clear on their ambitions and to make statements about deploying offshore floating wind. The UK, for example, has done a good thing in proposing a third pot for the Contract for Difference (CfD) dedicated to floating wind technologies, incentivizing developers to develop and mature floating wind solutions. The UK has in fact set a clear target of developing 1 GW of floating offshore wind by 2030. In this way the projects don’t compete with fixed offshore wind farms in the subsidy allocation rounds,” concludes Rajnish.
“Together with our partners, we analyzed and concluded that floating solutions are very much feasible. We simulated and tested the behaviour of electrical components in both wind turbines and substations. There are no technology barriers to develop and scale up floating solutions,” says Alfredo. “We need to standardize the floating systems in order for the industry to align and contribute to the scaling up,” he continues.
Digitalization brings a lot of intelligence and offers great opportunities to optimize costs, maximize efficiencies, and increase health and safety for the offshore industry. With proper instrumentation of wind farm assets and utilization of modern, mission-critical communication technologies and latest Operations and Maintenance (O&M) software, we enable the ability to operate and diagnose the assets from thousands of kilometers away - from our offices and even from our homes. Reducing the number of trips to the seas not only reduces O&M costs but also health and safety risks of personnel.
“We are bringing a lot of technical development from our oil and gas business over to offshore wind. Equinor has always been at the forefront of utilizing new technologies and we’ve been working a lot with digitalization. For example, we have been using drones for the inspection of blades. In oil and gas business, we have used autonomous subsea inspection vehicles which we can also utilize for offshore wind,” explains Rajnish.
“The wind industry was very much developed around turbines, and they are really sophisticated and intelligent machines. But the industry can do more with integrating the data across the whole system and using the information from the turbines, the substation, and grid connection, and consume this in a smart way to further reduce operational expenditure.
Production and revenue forecasting is very important for developers before investing, beginning with the design and during the operation of the wind farms. And for accurate forecasting, we need to integrate data across many areas, such as wind data from the site, equipment design data, grid connection details, and of course offtake energy prices.
“Predictive maintenance is really important and a low-hanging fruit. Sharing data and utilizing it for decision making is also very important. We have a lot of data today and we need to exploit it better and utilize it to improve operations and maintenance,” adds Rajnish.
How do we ensure that we get to the ‘next level’?
All of this will simply remain a dream of few pioneers if we don’t actuate all the levers to make it happen. We need good planning across policies, technology and solutions development, as well as risk management activities.
First and foremost, we need to ensure industry growth through proper policies across all markets in order to confirm the volumes for the supply chain. Visibility and stability of the policies always play an important role to bring an industry to maturity. We also need to agree on the areas of exploitation and ensure we have the proper grid connections to plug in the wind energy.
“The grid is a constraint that needs to be addressed. You can already see in many markets that these constraints are limiting the development of offshore wind. We need modernization of the grid and the surrounding infrastructure to ensure speed of development and reach net-zero targets,” says Rajnish.
We need strong infrastructure for the future and with electricity as the backbone of the carbon-neutral world, the grids need to be in good shape,” adds Alfredo.
Pushing technological boundaries and developing innovative solutions are also critical to ensure that offshore wind delivers on its promises. Scaling up requires new and more effective materials in order to build lighter but stronger wind turbines. Recyclability is also important. We need to guarantee that turbines jump from the current 85-95% recyclability rate to 100% rate.
As we continue to anchor wind projects on the existing grid infrastructure, we also need to start designing the offshore grid to give us the necessary capacity and flexibility to export the offshore wind energy to all corners of the grid. As HVDC becomes a key technology for offshore grids, interoperability between players and a proper DC grid concept capable of exporting to all countries to support the envisioned growth of offshore wind power are necessary.
But the story does not stop here. We also need to evolve our energy and grid management solutions to suit the future – more dynamic state – of the system, driven by variable generators and loads. Besides, as we build more and more wind power in the waters around us, we must guarantee that consumers are able to profit from it. Electrification solutions for transportation, industrial, and heating and cooling sectors must therefore be adopted. With these efforts combined, we will achieve our carbon-neutral ambitions in time and at an affordable cost – with electricity as the backbone of the entire energy sector.