DEEP DIVE | ‘This year is going to be pivotal for floating wind’

June 16, 2023
7 min read
Featured Image

The recent icing of Norway's 1 GW Trollvind floating wind project sent a chill though a sector on the cusp of industrialization. But, as Corio’s Sonja Chirico Indrebø tells Beaufort, though disappointing, it won't scupper other 'risk-lowering' gigascale arrays taking up the charge as the global build-out moves out of harbor

By Darius Snieckus

Floating wind power is in the crucible. Despite powering up the world’s largest array yet, the 95 MW Hywind Tampen off Norway, in 2022 and the sector having a 300 GW international project pipeline bulging to be uncorked, Aegir Insights’ latest calculus on build-out rates point to at best 4 GW being moored and turning by the end of the decade and 26 GW by 2035 – a 35% smaller fleet than anticipated at the end of last year. All a far cry from the 260 GW-plus forecast by many to be turning at sea by mid-century.

To further muddle the market alchemy, the 1GW planned follow-up to Tampen, Trollvind – which like its forerunning was designed to cut emissions from offshore oil & gas operations – was recently shelved by developer Equinor, a decision taken, the company said, due to “several challenges” including wildly inflated supply chain costs.

And this news came in the wake of oil supermajor Shell’s announcement that it was selling Eolfi, the French floating wind specialist acquired in 2019, as it rethought its strategy on the sector.

The new global head of floating wind at investment bank Macquarie spin-out Corio Generation, which has a one of the largest sector portfolios, with 30 GW in development, remains sanguine about the growth of the fledgling sector. And Sonja Chirico Indrebø has a near-unique perspective on the floating wind’s “state of health”, having run operations for three years on the pioneering 30 MW Hywind Scotland project, the world’s first commercial-scale array, switched on in 2017, as well as leading early-stage development of Trollvind.

“Globally, the pipeline of projects is growing exponentially, but industrialization of the supply chain is very much still a central challenge,” says Indrebø, who took up the post at Corio fourth months ago to spearhead the floating wind projects that make up around 10% of its total development portfolio.

“But let’s keep in mind that in 2015 at Equinor when I was responsible for strategy and innovation in the New Energy business, we were assessing all sorts of technology [for commercial development] and floating wind was still at the time seen as having very narrow deployability. The sector has gone from proving floating wind is ‘doable’ to bankable and operational – and it is now clear how well the technology scales up.

“We are going to see this as the gigawatt-scale ScotWind [floating] projects are developed [off Scotland], those in the Celtic Sea [off the UK], South Korea, Norway.”

‘Taking longer than anticipated’

She acknowledges it is “taking longer” than anticipated – the Global Wind Energy Council in 2021 was expecting 16.5GW online by end of the decade – “but not through any failure” of the industry.

“It is complicated building a new industry and it needs to develop a supply chain – and of course the offshore wind supply chain is very busy with bottom-fixed projects,” says Indrebø.

“Compared with previous predictions about the fast scaling up of floating projects {in 2017 Equinor set out a ‘road map’ that foresaw 14-16 GW of projects online by 2030], I think the sector has now much more realistic ambition.”

Indrebø adds that development of floating wind power has not happened in a vacuum, with “so much else being learnt on the way”, ranging from connecting battery storage and hydrogen production to deepwater arrays through biodiversity studies to hone sustainable project construction and operation philosophies. “And now we have 11 turbines interacting together [on Hywind Tampen]”

"What is most important in my mind now is how we ensure these first utility-scale projects build for the industrial long-run and don’t end up being one-offs"

<p srcset= "Portrait Sonja Indrebo, Corio Generation


She adds: “The more large-scale projects we build the greater the efficiencies and the more we can bring down costs,” she says, in response to Aegir forecast that now expect annual installations to rise to 5GW a year by the turn of the decade and more than 10GW a year by 2032.

With roughly half of the project hundreds of gigawatts of floating wind plant foreseen turning by 2050 expected to be installed off Asia, the first utility-scale projects being built, including Corio’s 1.5GW Gray Whale, in development off South Korea with national chaebol SK and French oil giant Total, will be fundamental to speeding construction in the region.

“We, as a company, have been early entrants to these first Asian markets, Taiwan, South Korea, and part of that is about building up relationships and partnership,” says Indrebø.

Deepwater dream-to-reality

“There are huge opportunities in floating wind right across Asia and I think [the sector] can play a really important role for many of the same reasons it is in Europe: richer wind stream over deepwater sites. And the winds are what we are chasing, here the wind is the best fit for your [power production] assets and yet minimize conflict with other ocean users, the shipping lanes, the fishing areas.”

Corio’s belief in the “new geographies” opened to offshore wind power through floating technologies shows plainly in their current development pipeline, which also includes projects off South Korea, Norway, the UK, France, Spain and Portugal  

“Early project success is very important for us and for the industry [in these new markets]. And we want to help shape progress in these different plays,” says Indrebø.

“I think 2023 is going to be a pivotal year for floating because we do see key regulatory decisions being taken in Norway, France and elsewhere, and other markets, Portugal for one, suddenly looking like they are going to move fairly fast.”

“What is most important in my mind now is how we ensure these projects build for the industrial long-run and don’t end up being one-offs.”

Shelving the giant Trollvind project – which would have involved construction over 70 floating hulls and linked power infrastructure – was seen by some industry observers as a set-back to the sector at this crucial stage in its development, as it moves from being innovation-driven into bona fide industrialization, but Indrebø sees it a “more sad than surprising”.

‘Tangible assets needed to progress’

“The sector needs tangible assets to progress and Trollvind could have been one of those and it was creating a lot of excitement in Norway among developers and the supply chain at an important time in the regional market’s development.

“But I don’t believe this will ultimately slow the industry down from industrializing, given the other international projects of gigawatt-scale that are now underway,” says Indrebø.

Floating wind will be able to make a most meaningful contribution to the global energy transition, she adds, as it becomes looked to as an integrated offshore power source – for oil & gas decarbonization, hydrogen production, deepsea aquaculture and coastal desalination, as well as for “pure clean power”.

“Coexistence is key. If we can find what works best for everybody then rather than conflicts among the world’s ocean users, you find where you strengthen each other, can share knowledge, can collaborate to mutual benefit,” says Indrebø.

Core to the commercialization of floating wind are the economies of scale to be carved out via the cost of the hulls. With well over 120 concepts currently jockeying in the market – but only four models, the Hywind spar, Principle Power semisubmersible, BW Ideol ‘damping pool’ barge, and Stiesdal Tetraspar concept installed at full-scale – “consolidation” of designs to speed up industrialization continues to be a hot-button topic in offshore wind circles.

“It's definitely a challenge to have that many different [concepts in the market] but at the same time, it's also about making sure that we are carefully assessing which are the designs that we'll be able to scale and industrialize in the way we need it to be – that needs to be front-of-mind,” says Indrebø.

Tailoring 'technology agnosticism'

As a self-declared “technology agnostic” developer, Corio, she adds “always wants to be able to choose the best available option, because it is important that we're not chasing everything, but we do need to find the designs that we have a stronger belief so we can ‘co-develop’ these through projects to create technologies that scale well and bring down costs. 

“There will be [floating wind platform] solutions that are more adapted to different geographical locations, some concrete, some steel, and this will also be about what the local supply chain is capable of doing and what is the most optimal solution for a project site.”

New model partnerships are set to inform much of the thinking on floating wind project development both on a local and global levels, with agreements between developers, floater technology engineers, and turbine OEMs, according to Aegir Insight analysis, showing 200-plus companies interconnected via bid consortia or other types of tie-up.

“The great number of collaborations we are seeing is about bringing a wider variety of robust technologically rooted solutions to the table,” says Indrebø.

“And we are seeing [in early project development] that openness, if it goes both ways [between developer and supplier] really helps mature projects faster and more successfully. Because most of all we need to get turbines in large numbers turning [on floating platforms] in the water if this industry is going to accelerate now.”

This article was part of Aegir Insights' intelligence newsletter, Beaufort:
Delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday, Beaufort will sharpen your market insight for the week ahead with exclusive commentary, analysis, and in-depth journalism delving into the talking points and technologies shaping offshore wind.
Sign up for free here.

Tagged: Beaufort

Aegir Insights provides industry-leading intelligence powered by data science for offshore wind energy developers, governments and financial institutions.

Aegir Insights ApS

Aegir Insights
Havnegade 27 st,
1058 Copenhagen,

CVR no.: 39104792


Aegir Insights

Aegir Insights
Havnegade 27,
1058 Copenhagen,

CVR no.: 39104792

All rights reserved 2023 © Aegir Insights Aps