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Navigating the new challenges of floating offshore wind

With decarbonisation and energy security as top priorities for governments, corporations and institutions worldwide, green energy sectors such as offshore wind are experiencing a developmental boom.

Fixed wind turbines can only reasonably be installed at depths of up to 60 metres, so floating offshore wind (FOW) must play a major role in deeper waters. Indeed, around 80% of the world’s offshore wind power potential is found at greater depths.1 With this in mind, the Global Wind Energy Council has revised its long-term outlook, forecasting 28 GW in floating offshore wind capacity by 2031.2 This trend will be principally led by Europe, North America and East Asia.

The challenges on the horizon

To unleash this potential, floating offshore wind developers must overcome multiple challenges, not least of which the need for a reliable supply chain. As turbines grow in size, competition for materials is intensifying. This is particularly the case for steel — to which the oil and gas sector is contributing to scarcity and rising costs — but also for concrete, mooring line chains and synthetic fibres and construction facilities. Materials must be sourced from around the world, resulting in increased demand for facilities for component construction. Add to this increasing scrutiny of sustainability credentials, forcing developers to pay close attention to the carbon intensity of their supply chain.

Next on a developer’s list of challenges is the fact that floating turbines are currently between one and a half and four times more expensive than their fixed counterparts.3 Significant investment is required to unlock growth — such as the £31m ($39.1m) of funding from the UK government, matched by more than £30m in funding from industry, recently pledged to develop FOW in UK waters.4

In addition to these concerns, as turbines are placed in deeper and rougher waters, FOW support vessels have more specific design requirements. Operators will also need to provide more onsite accommodation for technicians and maintenance crews, as daily commuting to remote locations becomes inefficient.

Bureau Veritas is supporting the FOW sector’s growth through the publication of dedicated marine renewable energy (MRE) guidelines and the creation of the NI 631 verification schemes, which complement the IECRE certification schemes for renewable energies.

To validate designs, Bureau Veritas’ international teams of experts provide Approvals in Principle (AiP) and Basic Design Assessments (BDA). Clients leverage Bureau Veritas’ knowledge in relevant disciplines such as mooring, structural integrity and seakeeping, to verify suitability for use and environmental credentials. Building trust in innovative designs through independent verification is particularly important as FOW developers must adapt to various local regulations. As a trusted third party, Bureau Veritas provides clarity and a clear global standard.

Certification services available to clients include assessments of the structural integrity of prototypes/demonstrators and commercial projects – from design through operations, including fabrication and installation – and ensuring materials and equipment conform to specifications.

Bureau Veritas experts can also verify a project’s compliance with a variety of requirements, including environmental rules, national regulations and standards. For example, Bureau Veritas has been supporting the Provence Grand Large FOW project off France’s southern coast since 2017, certifying to IEC 61400-22 for design, manufacturing, transport and installation surveillance.5 As a trusted classification partner for the marine and offshore industry, it provides expert services for both floater installations and the specialised vessels they require.

Looking ahead, Bureau Veritas is involved in many in-house and cross-industry research and development projects. The knowledge gained from these projects informs rules and software, such as Bureau Veritas’ OPERA tool. Joint Industry Projects like those in progress with the EU also spread knowledge that helps legislators more effectively regulate and encourage funding.

Overcoming challenges, shaping trust

The floating offshore wind sector has enormous potential and is facing major challenges, making this a pivotal moment for its players. This emerging technology raises almost as many questions as it answers. As one of the world’s foremost class societies, Bureau Veritas is supporting the industry to overcome hurdles and help it to develop safely and efficiently to shape trust in this high-potential technology.


Fact box: Technical advisory consultancy

Bureau Veritas Solutions is a subsidiary of its Marine and Offshore division, dedicated to helping clients go beyond compliance. Its services range from support with design to technical studies and risk analysis. It offers environmental assessments and project management for platforms, mooring and anchor systems, and subsea cables, as well as in-depth expertise in marine operations for transport and installation.

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