Last May we published an article reviewing the current situation of the floating wind market in Spain. As we were able to see, it is a boiling market with the perfect combination: the entry of large companies, the will of public administrations and the possibility of financing through European funds. But offshore in Spain has a small detail that differentiates it from the rest of Europe: it has to be floating due to the depth of the seabed.
So, as a continuation of the previous article, today we will review the main floating offshore developments that exist in Spain.
Before going into detail, it should be noted that floating technology has been under development for years and there are a multitude of concepts, but given its complexity and cost, it is still in the R&D, prototype or pilot park stages. The most advanced concepts worldwide are probably HyWind and WindFloat. Equinor’s Hywind concept installed in 2017 the pilot in Scotland with 5 turbines of 6MW and plans to install in 2022 the first commercial project of 88MW, while WindFloat already has 75 MW in the installation phase in 2 different projects as we will see below.
Of the 3 main technological concepts, the semi-submersible is the one that seems to be the clear winner. In fact, according to NREL data, 90% of the announced projects use semi-submersible floating foundation concepts.
Opportunity for Spain
Floating wind is the ideal opportunity to apply Spain’s tremendous wind power capabilities in a new local market and thus develop the expertise and supply chain and then export it to other markets.
In order to take advantage of this magnificent opportunity, 3 fundamental pillars are needed:
1) Legal framework to develop the local market: as mentioned in the previous article, this is an urgent issue that will hopefully be published soon as other countries such as France and Japan are taking the lead. As a new event, the long-awaited Public Consultation on the Draft Roadmap for the development of Offshore Wind and Marine Energies in Spain has been recently luanched. Also the first draft of the POEM defining the areas suitable for offshore development was published several weeks ago.
2) Supply chain: Spain is a powerhouse in onshore wind: large developers, manufacturers, EPCs, R&D development centres… even in offshore, where demand is located in other markets, Spain has an important presence: Iberdrola as one of the main offshore developers or Windar-Navantia as one of the main suppliers of offshore jackets. In fact, many companies are already working on offshore projects:
3) Technology: this is another area where there is a lot of activity in Spain and which can be a differentiating element with respect to other countries. As the latest report on renewable patents by the IEA showed, Spain leads wind innovation in Europe, only behind Denmark.
It is worth reading the excellent report on floating wind power in Spain by InnoEnergy, which exhaustively reviews these 3 pillars.
So let’s take a brief tour of the most interesting floating technology concepts being developed in Spain.
WindFloat (EDPR, Engie, Repsol, Principle Float)
We start the review with a project that is actually being installed off the coast of Portugal, in front of Viana do Castelo, in an area with a depth of 100m. It is a semi-submerged floating foundation concept with a characteristic triangle shape developed by Principle Power.
WindFloat is a project led by EDPR through Ocean Winds (its JV with Engie) with Repsol as a partner. Principle Power is the technologist while the turbines have been supplied by MHI-Vestas. The floating structures have been manufactured by Navantia at its shipyard in Fene (Ferrol).
The WindFloat concept is also being installed in what will be the world’s largest floating farm with 50MW when it is connected this year. It consists of 5 units of V164-9.5MW and 1 turbine of 2 MW. Although it is in Kincardine (Scotland), the project has been developed by the Spanish companies Sener and Cobra and the structures manufactured by Navantia.
Elisa Project (Esteyco)
Installed two years ago in PLOCAN (Canary Islands), this is a pioneering development by Esteyco that combines floating foundations with a telescopic tower. It is also the largest offshore turbine installed in our country. Specifically, the turbine is a 5MW Gamesa model with a 132m diameter rotor that is no longer commercially available.
In this video you can see the whole process of assembly and installation of the turbine.
It was a pioneering and very ambitious project that has demonstrated the technological feasibility of this type of project, but it does not seem that the concept is progressing to commercial stages.
Pivot Buoy (X1 Wind)
Pivot Buoy is a novel concept developed by the company X1 Wind that is characterised by its pyramidal structure, its single mooring point and, above all, its downwind turbine configuration. This configuration is very rare in wind energy as almost all turbines are oriented upwind, with the rotor facing the wind, but as explained on the X1 Wind website, this allows them to self-orientate and optimise the structure.
A 1:3 prototype is currently being installed at PLOCAN (Canary Islands) that mounts a V29 turbine modified to operate downwind.
It is a very interesting concept that has its main advantages in the downwind configuration but also its biggest challenges: finding commercial turbines with this configuration because modifying a conventional turbine to operate downwind is not trivial as it affects the design of blades, control, etc.
Semi-submersible bi-turbine concept with triangular shaped structure developed by EnerOcean.
They have already installed, tested and subsequently withdrawn a 1:6 scale prototype in PLOCAN (Canary Islands) with 2 turbines of 100kW each. This video shows the assembly process of the prototype.
The full-scale design will be able to accommodate 2 turbines of 6MW each and with rotors up to 140m. EnerOcean has very ambitious plans and has already applied through the company Canarrays for permits to install 2 wind farms in the Canary Islands with a total of 180MW.
The bi-turbine concept is very interesting and a great idea when offshore turbines did not exceed 5 MW but given the speed of development of wind turbines, the big problem now may be to find commercial models of 6 MW and rotors of less than 140m. A Swedish company called Hexicon is developing a very similar concept.
Concept developed by Saitec and consisting of a kind of semi-submerged barge with 2 floats and a single mooring point.
They have already installed in 2020 a first scale prototype called BlueSATH which consisted of a small turbine of 30kW and 15m rotor diameter installed off the coast of Santander. In this video you can see the whole process.
The next step will be DemoSATH, a prototype of 2MW and 96m rotor diameter that will be installed in 2022 in BIMEP (Bilbao) at a depth of 85m. For this project, RWE has entered as an investment partner and Ferrovial will be in charge of manufacturing and assembly.
If all goes well, the next step will be a pilot project of 3 turbines and 45MW of total power on the Basque coast for which Saitec has already started the permitting process.
The concept is very much geared towards assembling commercial turbines without major modifications, so it has a very practical approach. It will be key to see how the 2 MW prototype performs, as well as the experience in its manufacture and assembly.
Nautilus (Nautilus FS)
This is a semi-submersible concept with 4 columns and 4 mooring points developed by the Basque company Nautilus Floating solutions. In this virtual reality video you can see a recreation of the system in operation.
It is a concept that has not yet been prototyped but is very active in several collaborative projects of the Basque industry such as SeaPower or Wind2Grid.
We have left for last a project which, although it will be installed in Norway, is led by Iberdrola and in which other Spanish companies such as Cener and Zabala are participating. It is a semi-submerged concept with a central column that supports the turbine and three others that make up the floating structure that is anchored to the bottom by means of three connections.
This is a medium-term project that aims to develop a concept that will be valid for offshore turbines of the (not too distant) future of up to 20MW. We will have to keep an eye on the evolution of this project because among the participants are some of the most powerful offshore companies such as Iberdrola, DNV-GL or Aker.
In this development and prototyping phase, technology centres are key to accelerating developments, testing models and housing prototypes. As we saw in the article on wind validation centres, this is one of the key assets in building a strong industry. Let’s look at some of the main ones involved in floating offshore in Spain:
- PLOCAN: is undoubtedly the most active. It is a public consortium that offers a test bed in the Canary Islands to install offshore prototypes where Esteyco, X1Wind and W2Power are located.
- BIMEP: is the Basque equivalent of PLOCAN, offering an area for offshore and tidal prototypes. It has more evacuation capacity than PLOCAN and is already planning to host DemoSATH.
- IH Cantabria: is the environmental hydraulics institute attached to the University of Cantabria and collaborates in projects such as Flagship or SATH.
- CENER: well known in the onshore world, the national centre for renewable energies based in Navarra also collaborates with a large part of the projects under development such as W2Power, X1Wind, Nautilus and others.
- Tecnalia: the Basque technology centre is undoubtedly one of the most important in the country. It has collaborated in several projects such as the HarshLab floating laboratory located at BIMEP or Nautilus.
Although I am sure that this review has been incomplete and that some projects and companies have been left out, I think Spain has the tools to be a power in the field of floating wind turbines. The only thing missing is the promotion of a regulatory framework that accelerates pilot and commercial projects so that the industry can move from prototype mode to the commercial phase as soon as possible.