The world’s first floating offshore wind farm turns 5 — here’s how it’s going

The world’s first floating offshore wind farm turns 5 — here’s how it’s going

The world’s first floating offshore wind farm, Hywind Scotland, has been in operation since 2017. On its fifth birthday, its operators shared how it’s going and what they’ve learned.

Hywind Scotland, a pilot project, is off the coast of Peterhead, the easternmost point in mainland Scotland, in Aberdeenshire.

It consists of five floating wind turbines with a total capacity of 30 megawatts (MW). It generates enough electricity to power the equivalent of 34,000 households in the UK. Its maximum height, base to turbine, is 253 meters (830 feet), and it’s located in a water depth of 95-120 meters (312-394 feet). It has a spar-type substructure.

Its operator, Norwegian power giant Equinor, claims that Hywind Scotland is the world’s best-performing offshore wind farm, achieving a capacity factor of 54% over its five years of operations. (For comparison, the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems reported that offshore wind capacity factors are “expected to reach 51% by 2022 for new projects.”)

The company developed a floating wind turbine motion controller that it implemented at Hywind Scotland. The company says that the technology has resulted in “world-leading capacity factor performance,” despite the wind turbines’ movement due to floating.

Equinor also asserts that Hywind Scotland has achieved the highest average capacity factor of all UK offshore wind farms.

Equinor has also developed special training for onshore wind technicians so that they can operate and maintain Hywind Scotland and says that its operating staff has had no loss time injuries during the floating offshore wind farm’s time online.

William Munn, plant manager of Hywind Scotland at Equinor, explains what they’ve learned so far:

Operating the Hywind Scotland project for the past five years has informed Equinor of some of the unique challenges associated with a floating wind farm, and the rewards if we get it right.

Because of its location and the harsh weather conditions it encounters, Hywind Scotland has exposure to higher wind speeds than we typically see on a fixed-bottom wind farm, but also has to withstand large waves, while continuing to produce power with wave heights of 10 meters [33 feet].

Due to the environment, unique operations and maintenance methods have been required, such as a high-performance crew transfer vessel (CTV) that can continue operations in higher-than-standard transfer conditions.

As a pilot floating wind farm, Hywind Scotland is acting as a trailblazer, with much larger floating wind farms now in the pipeline.

Steinar Berge, head of floating wind at Equinor, said:

Equinor is the world’s most experienced operator and developer of floating wind, and is taking lessons learned from Hywind Scotland further toward global opportunities.

We are advancing plans to develop additional projects, including in South Korea, Australia, France, Spain, California, the UK’s Celtic Sea, and Norway.

Hywind Scotland provides Equinor with strong confidence in floating offshore wind technology and enables us to advance even-larger projects with a solid operational foundation, getting us closer to the ultimate aim of industrializing and commercializing floating wind.

Equinor’s Hywind Tampen, the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm, delivered its first power in November. It’s also Norway’s first floating offshore wind farm. When Hywind Tampen comes online in 2023, Equinor will operate about half the world’s total capacity of floating wind farms.

Read more: World’s largest floating offshore wind farm is now online

Photo: © Equinor

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