Deepwater arrays could account for hundreds of gigawatts of wind plant by mid-century, but the once 'floating-only' water depths of 60-100 metres could become market battle zones for other foundations – including even the monopile
By Victoria Toft
Though floating wind power’s long-term future looks undeniably bright, with more than 300GW in the global project pipeline around the world, the sector’s slow-rolling industrialization could in the near-term be exposed to competition from bottom-fixed foundations keen to cut into its market share in ‘shallow water’ 60-100 meter (195-330ft) depths.
Deploying floating wind arrays in shallow water has its share of its challenges already, with ‘station keeping’ using traditional catenary mooring resulting in extremely big seabed footprints and heavier lines to keep units anchored in place.
But now there is the challenge emerging from new-model monopiles – a foundation once limited to 30 metres of water but now seeing designs engineered for waters down to almost 100 meters under certain conditions; tripods – an almost forgotten steel concept being revived for some niche projects; and four-legged jackets – a field-proven technology that is finding cost-reduction fabrication techniques that are making it more economic.
Much also hinges on future turbine outlook – as machines push toward 20MW nameplates and rotor sizes and nacelle weights grow in line, some foundation concepts have more or less favorable scaling. As industry debate intensifies around the value of stepping-up to even larger turbines than those currently in the water, there is a large ‘grey zone’ of uncertainty around which floating foundation designs could win order volume in the 60-100 meter depth range.
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