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Hywind Scotland, one year on - how is the first floating wind farm doing?

Wind has always been a viable source of renewable energy, but 2016 saw a surge of investment in this energy source, due to the development of floating offshore floating wind farms.

Thanks to an amazing technological development, these floating farms were able to offset many of the limitations of previous generations of turbine, by using an underwater ballast alongside mooring lines to stay upright.

The first wind farm in the world to use this tech is Hywind Scotland, a collection of five floating turbines 24 km off the coast of Peterhead. Hywind Scotland started generating power in October 2017, so one year later, how is the wind farm doing, and has it been a success?

What is so unique about Hywind Scotland?

Hywind Scotland is a potentially game changing project for renewable energy, as by removing the need for turbines to be anchored to the ocean floor, wind farms can be established further from the shore and in deeper water.

Traditionally, fixed turbines have a limit of 40 metres, while floating turbines can be deployed at depths of anywhere between 100 to 700 metres, opening up a host of potential locations that were previously off limits for wind farms.

In addition to this obvious benefit, Hywind Scotland also utilised larger turbines, which increased the amount of energy able to be generated, offering a far higher capacity. The innovative wind farm was projected to provide enough energy for over 20,000 homes.

How has it done?

The short answer to this question is: very well. In February it was reported that Hywind Scotland had performed better than expected during its three months in full operation, averaging a capacity factor of about 65% during November, December and January.

The capacity factor is a measurement of how efficiently a wind turbine is performing, which is calculated by dividing the average power generated by the peak rated power. The measurement of 65% for Hywind Scotland is considerably better than other wind farms in the UK, which average between 30 and 40%.

Even more impressively, these numbers occurred despite two major storms during this time period. Hurricane Ophelia in October and storm Caroline in early December will have negatively impacted on these results, as wind turbines shut down during extreme winds.

This is particularly encouraging, with Statoil - the company behind Hywind Scotland - noting that the turbines resumed operation quickly after these extreme weather events.

What’s next?

The success of Hywind Scotland has demonstrated the viability of this type of technology, further boosting the interest in wind power, with more wind farms of this type on the way.

One such project is the £2.6 billion Beatrice Offshore Windfarm, which is being installed around 13 km off the east Caithness coast. This project is considerably bigger than Hywind, with 84 turbines being fitted to power some 450,000 homes. The project is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2019.

In its first year, Hywind Scotland has undoubtedly had a big impact, with many more floating wind farms likely to be inspired by the success of this ambitious project.

Morgan Franklin's picture

Thank Morgan for the Post!

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on October 30, 2018

“Hywind Scotland is a potentially game changing project for renewable energy, as by removing the need for turbines to be anchored to the ocean floor, wind farms can be established further from the shore and in deeper water.”

Morgan, if Hywind’s wind turbines weren’t anchored they would float away. Engineers at Equinor (formerly Statoil) thought of that possibility, and anchored the 5 Siemens 6MW turbines to the ocean floor with three suction cups each (really). Suction cups may not seem like the most robust solution, but if they tip over and sink no one would probably know the difference. Hywind generates, on average, 20MW of electricity - seven-tenths of one percent of Scotland’s consumption - making the farm a game changer in public relations, if nothing else.

At a cost of $200M (US), Hywind is a drop in the bucket for Equinor, with revenue of $61B (US) derived from drilling for oil in the North Sea. And if their sunken windfarm over the horizon convinces naive environmentalists they’re doing something positive for the environment, Mission Accomplished.

Karel Beckman's picture
Karel Beckman on November 2, 2018

This is news dating back from February of this year, see for example here

How can this be presented here as news?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on November 6, 2018

Yes, it is a pity that no one year results were presented in the article as it was to be expected from the headline. The full year performance would have been very interesting for everyone.

It is interesting how the nuclear fanboys try to make a failure of the project, because the prototypes wre not able to power the whole world alone. Calder hall with 5MW output was even smaller to compare it with a similar project on the nuclear side.

If I take bob numbers, so 20 MW continuous output, 20 years lifespan, I get a capital cost part without interest of 57$/MWh. Which is not good enogh for a mass produced commercial product, but a very good starting value for a prototype. I wait for the first commercial SMR reactor which can provide same or better numbers as a prototype.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 12, 2018

Helmut, Sellafield went online 62 years ago; wind energy has been around for hundreds of years. Though great for milling bread, it's is as poor a supply of electricity now as it was 62 years ago.

So please don't compare renewables with sources of abundant, non-intermittent energy - there's no comparison. And there's no more time to tolerate this nonsense.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on November 13, 2018

thermal power generation was also used by the ancient greeks ans romans, and it is perfect to turn the pike to roast beef. but it is poor a supply for electricity now as it was then, wasting to much raw materials and polluting the environmet too much with different wastes.

And intermittend - well wha we have today in Belgium or swizerland recently  with nuclear is intermittend, and the storages needed to fill the gaps in generation there would be several TWh in size. Better variable output which comes again after some days than gaps which last months and sometimes years.

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