Complex Made Simple

Offshore projects that harness wind, offset rising water, gaining global traction

Current offshore technology allows for venturing further into the seas and using wind as a powerful element to generate sustainable energy

Floating offshore wind turbines are different from bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines  The Windcatcher is a structure that could contain more than a hundred rotors stacked vertically A floating 3-floor cow farm adjusts to rising sea levels and doesn't need to take up any space on land

An ocean produces more than a breeze. The deeper you venture offshore, the heavier the winds.

Current offshore technology allows for venturing further into the seas and using wind as a powerful element to generate sustainable energy.

And as seas look to submerge more of the planet’s terra firma, they’re becoming the new ground zero for previously land-based projects, only more environmentally friendly, as a Netherlands team has proven.  

Floating wind energy

German energy company RWE and Norway’s NTE and Havfram have signed a collaboration agreement to participate in the Norwegian government’s tender process for floating offshore wind energy, which will begin later this year.

Located around 30 kilometers off the coast of Norway, the site offers the opportunity to build up to 1.5 gigawatts of new floating offshore capacity.

The project partners are convinced that offshore wind energy will be a key component in the future energy mix and one of the solutions to meeting the growing demand for renewables. Moreover, it will permit new industries to develop and will lead to new jobs being created.

”To be able to reach the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement and to successfully accomplish the green transition, we need to increase the production of renewable energy,” Christian Stav, CEO of NTE, one of Norway’s largest energy companies, said.

“Hydropower and floating wind are perfectly complementary energy sources in the Nordic energy mix,” he added.

 Japan offshore wind

RWE Renewables and Kansai Electric Power have signed an agreement that will see the two businesses “jointly study the feasibility of a large-scale floating offshore wind project” in waters off Japan’s coast.

The recently announced project is not the only one in Japan focused on floating offshore wind. Last July, self-described “cleantech company,” BW Ideol said it had signed a joint development agreement with energy firm ENEOS Corporation to develop a “commercial-scale floating offshore wind farm” in waters off Japan’s coast.

In June, authorities in Japan said a consortium made up of six companies — Toda Corporation, Osaka Gas, Kansai Electric Power, ENEOS Corporation, INPEX Corporation, and Chubu Electric Power — had been selected to develop a 16.8-megawatt floating offshore wind farm in waters off the coast of Goto City, Nagasaki Prefecture.  

Floating offshore wind turbines are different from bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines that are rooted to the seabed. By contrast, RWE describes floating turbines as being “deployed on top of floating structures that are secured to the seabed with mooring lines and anchors.”

One advantage of floating turbines is that they can be installed in deeper waters compared to bottom-fixed ones. As the Carbon Trust, an advisory firm, notes: “Sites further from shore … tend to benefit from more consistent wind resource, meaning floating wind can deliver higher yields.”

Floating offshore wind is still in its early stages of development and costs will need to be driven down going forward. It was only in 2017 that Norwegian energy major Equinor, opened Hywind Scotland, a 30-megawatt facility it calls “the first full-scale floating offshore wind farm.”

Norway’s Windcatcher

Norwegian company Wind Catching Systems is developing a floating offshore wind power generator that could produce renewable energy for 80,000 homes at prices comparable to traditional fossil fuels.

Named the Windcatcher, the structure would contain more than a hundred rotors stacked vertically within a 300-meter-high framework.

According to the company, one Windcatcher could produce as much energy as five of the strongest floating turbines in existence while halving the price of the energy generated in the process.

Wind Catching Systems aims to deploy the first structure within the next three years.

“Our goal is to enable offshore wind operators and developers to produce electricity at a cost that competes with other energy sources, without subsidies,” Wind Catching Systems CEO Ole Heggheim told Dezeen.

“We can produce electricity for a cost per kilowatt that is similar to what the other floating technologies are planning to achieve in 10 years.”

Wind Catching Systems hopes to make floating wind farms more efficient by relying on a larger number of smaller turbines with 15-meter-long blades, which can perform more rotations per minute and harness higher winds of up to 17 to 18 meters per second, generating more energy.

“At 11 meters per second, the wind has an energy of about 350 watts per square meter,” Heggheim explained.

“And at 17 meters per second, the wind has an energy of 13,000 watts per square meter, so we are harnessing the exponential power of wind.”

Clutch solution for a Dutch problem

The Netherlands is one of Europe’s largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases. The Dutch emit 34% more greenhouse gases per capita than the average European with only four EU countries performing worse than the Netherlands in this respect.

The dairy sector produces a lot of methane from cows. Since a third of the country lies below sea level, rising waters caused by climate change threaten the densely populated nation resulting in a desperate need for the country’s residents to curb their emissions and find more space for farms.

Now, a Dutch couple may have found a solution to these issues in the shape of a floating cow farm. Peter and Minke van Wingerden have conceived of a three-floor cow farm that floats on the water which means it can adjust to rising sea levels and doesn’t need to take up any space on land.

“We are on the water, so the farm moves with the tide—we rise and fall up to two meters. So in case of flooding, we can continue to produce,” Minke van Wingerden said in a statement.

The farm’s cows are fed on grapes from a food bank, grain from a local brewery, and grass from local golf courses. They thus forgo the emissions that would have to be created for the production of their food.

Furthermore, the cows’ manure is turned into garden pellets reducing methane and their urine is recycled into drinking water. Finally, all the farm’s electricity needs are met with solar panels.

“The world is under pressure,” Wingerden added. “We want the farm to be as durable and self-sufficient as possible.”