The History of Floating Wind

In 2005 a small team of design engineers started on what was to be the first Floating Wind Unit in the world, the Hywind 1. It has been successfully operational since 2009 and still is today. In the decade that followed several designers worked from various places around the globe on similar ideas, each developing their designs towards acceptance, proof of concept and eventually evolved into companies such as Principle Power and BW Ideol, now main players in the industry. Likewise, designs were emerging from within universities such as University of Maine and established engineering companies such as Toda, MHI and Mitsui in Japan. And of course Statoil who changed their name to Equinor to match the New Energy philosophy they were following.

Gradually all combined efforts took the shape of a small new industry. An early sign of where it was going was the type of technology chosen for these early designs: SPARs, Semisubmersibles, Barges and TLPs, all stemming from the offshore construction industry. A typical Civil oriented industry at first, later the experience from the Offshore Industry supply chain was called-in some of which also proved supportive investors in successful demonstration projects in Portugal, France and Japan. In those days there were only 35 ‘planned’ floating projects worldwide.

Feed-back from those very early projects raised awareness of requirements to assure availability of efficient fabrication, construction and installation capacities if commercial scale projects were to be planned. This saw increasing involvement from the Offshore Construction industry, who took great interest in the development of this new industry and were making large investments in Floating Wind. Governments recognized the benefit of floating wind beyond that of bottom fixed and developed legislation and the auctioning of lease areas specifically for floating wind so that the first ‘pre-commercial’ projects could be planned in Portugal, Scotland and France. New designs entered the arena, which had more focus on supply chain mobilization and component-to-series fabrication, with the Stiesdal TertrasSpar and TeraSub and the Generation 4 WindFloat F from Principle Power as most noticeable examples.

The industry matured with 100s of companies actively developing technology and projects. The Floating Wind Industry erupted in many ways. Politically, economically and technically it has grown into a steady push towards a commercial future. New designs, now reaching over 100 are added almost monthly, new projects weekly. Turbine capacities doubled in less than 5 years, cutting the number of units in half for a given project capacity that today stands at minimum 1GW for each new project announcement.

The pipeline for planned projects grew tenfold and surpasses the 400 in various stages of development representing a spending of some $500Billion. Not many accepted the predicted volume of 16GW by 2030 from the early Quest FWE forecasts. That volume today stands at double that, backed-up by bottom-up data of real projects in development. Although the early 2020s saw hesitation due to economical and political instability, there is no turning back for Floating Wind, now planned in most of the world’s countries with windy coastal milage and the decade beyond 2025 will see a congestion of projects all claiming large material volumes, equipment capacities and manpower. There is still lots to do in Floating Wind.

Erik Rijkers