A chat with Vicky Coy, Deputy Project Director

My career has been spent delivering large-scale design and engineering projects, so I was delighted to join Floventis Energy to work alongside Project Director Olivier Marchand on the development of the Llŷr 1 and 2 floating offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea.

The projects have come forward through The Crown Estate’s Celtic Sea Test & Demonstration leasing opportunity, created to support the development and commercialisation of pioneering floating wind technologies. Each of the Llŷr projects will test a different floating platform technology to explore and demonstrate the nascent designs and installation approaches.

In July 2021, The Crown Estate confirmed their intention, subject to a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), to lease two floating offshore wind test and demonstration sites in the Celtic Sea to Floventis Energy. While we await the formal award of these lease areas by The Crown Estate, we are progressing with the development of the projects in line with the regulatory consent processes and expect to start formal consultation shortly. That’s an important milestone for the development of the projects.

Named after the Welsh god of the sea, the two Llŷr 100 megawatt (MW) projects are already playing an important role in helping to accelerate the development of the UK’s floating offshore wind industry. Situated approximately 31km from the Pembrokeshire coastline at water depths of 60-70 metres, the sites have wind speeds that are typically in excess of 10 metres per second – ideal for the generation of clean, renewable power.

Our mission is to deliver cost-efficient test wind farms that will enable the demonstration of two new floating wind technologies – testing the selected technologies and establishing a pathway to commercial exploitation. Each project is focussed on a demonstrating a different floating platform technology, providing two pathways to developing commercial-scale floating offshore wind. Indeed, we are currently working with our short-list of technology partners to determine how best to optimise the design of floating wind farms to reduce the costs of large-scale offshore wind developments within the UK.

Llŷr 1 & 2 will act as pathfinder projects to aid the establishment and growth of indigenous floating offshore wind industrial capability in the Celtic Sea region, in preparation for the larger commercial opportunity for floating wind. The capabilities of the supply chain depend on the opportunities and investment into them in the 2020s, and the setup of the offshore wind market. If lowest cost continues to be the only marker of success, or if the jump to GW projects is too fast, the supply chain may not grow or keep up.

It is therefore phased development and project awards, like the Llŷr projects, that will enable the local supply chain to develop. The Celtic Sea offers the opportunity for organic market growth beginning with steppingstone projects of the 100-200MW scale, growing to 1,000MW and beyond. This will support the local supply-chain to truly grow in parallel, targeting increased local content with the growing project sizes.

Meanwhile, we are focussed on completing our Environmental Statement as part of the consenting process and continuing our consultation with stakeholders before announcing our final technology selection. We will then move to the detailed design stage and beyond that into construction, each an exciting step in the drive for critical change in the UK’s energy mix.

BLOG – 21 MARCH 2023

Floating wind and the need for multiple ‘stepping-stone’ projects to deploy and demonstrate a wide range of critical technologies

Alex Gauntt, Supply Chain Director

It’s National Renewable Energy Day in the States so a good opportunity for me to reflect on what’s happening in the world of floating off-shore wind as campaigners raise awareness of the benefits of using renewable energy sources.

March 2019 was a bittersweet moment for the offshore wind sector in the UK. The two turbine offshore wind farm, Blyth, at the time owned and operated by E.ON (now RWE) started its decommissioning journey. The project, which was built in 2000 by a consortium made up of Border Wind, Powergen Renewables, Nuon UK and Shell Renewables, was the UK’s first offshore wind project, kick-starting an industry with incredible scale and ambition. Less than 2 km from the Northumberland shore, in less than 10m water depth on average (and not to be confused with the onshore Blyth Harbour Wind Farm along the East Pier of the Port of Blyth commissioned in 1993), the Blyth project consisted of two Vestas 2 MW machines, capable of producing sufficient power for more than 3,000 homes, situated on the UK’s first wind farm monopile foundations.

We cannot state for certain whether the fixed-bottom offshore wind projects in the UK we are seeing announced now, with projects in excess of 1 GW (250 times the size of Blyth) consisting of upwards of 15 MW per turbine and in water depths of 50m or more, would have been possible without the pathfinder aka ‘stepping-stone’ projects such as Blyth; but the industry certainly learnt a lot from such projects, lessons which have materially shaped the development and supply chain strategies of offshore wind farms ever since.

In terms of foundations, the UK was introduced to the concept of a monopile through such a project. A single, rolled and welded mono-tube, driven into the seabed, topped with a transition piece and turbine tower on which the turbine nacelle and rotor is perched, the monopile is bejewelled with secondary steel such as ladders, fenders and cable j-tubes, is a relatively simple device and suits shallow waters. However, this technology swiftly found it had an economic and feasible limit for deployment (limits which were often argued about and debated…and still are to this day) so a new technology was needed. Along came the ‘jacket’ foundations which are lattice towers of multiple rolled tubulars and cross braces to save steel (for cost) and weight (for installation complexity) for deeper water sites. Using primarily oil & gas technology and design codes, the first full-scale deployment of jacket offshore wind foundations in the UK was at the catchily named Distant Offshore Windfarms with No Visual Impact in Deepwater (DOWNVInD) project. Situated adjacent to the Talisman operated Beatrice oil field around 22 km from shore in water depths of up to 45 m, this project was developed by Talisman Energy and Scottish and Southern Energy under a partially EU-funded research project, and fully commissioned in 2007. It consisted of two 5 MW RePower turbines perched atop transition towers on transition pieces, affixed to the forementioned jackets which also held the secondary steel components required.

And that’s it pretty much for fixed bottom offshore wind foundations (except for gravity base type foundations – but that’s a whole story in and of itself and doesn’t feature in the UK very much). Almost every fixed bottom offshore wind farm in the UK is perched atop some sort of monopile or some sort of jacket foundation. 50-60m was generally considered as the economically feasible limit for deploying offshore wind farms in the UK…and then came floating.

As many of you will be are aware, there is a finite amount of relatively shallow water. Although the UK has been abundantly blessed with this asset, it does not equally service all geographies and regions. In areas such as the Southern Celtic Sea, or offshore North Scotland where wind abounds, but the ground is mostly out of reach for fixed-bottom foundations, the answer is floating.

However, floating offshore wind poses a particular challenge, in that there is no clear monopile or jacket (or indeed gravity base) equivalent and there are clear benefits (and challenges) to multiple technology types. The technologies currently deployed at ‘stepping-stone’ scale in the UK, consist of semi-submersible – a sort of floating tubular lattice structure with ballast and buoyancy – and spar-buoy-type foundations – a floating, upright ballasted tube – which both pose their own challenges to the industry and have yet to be deployed at fixed-bottom wind cost-competitive scales.

Semi-submersible foundations are inherently less stable than other types, unless over-sized to create additional stability, meaning that the turbine on top has to deal with a lot more movement than in the fixed wind environment. Meanwhile spar-buoy type solutions typically require extremely deep construction port facilities just to build the foundations, and there just aren’t that many deep-water ports capable of handling these requirements in the UK.

More technologies are required to find the best possible solution to the floating wind challenges in the UK of balancing supply chain capabilities with economic requirements. One exciting technology not yet deployed in the UK is the tension-leg platform (TLP), a smaller, simpler steel structure than a semi-submersible that has tensioned, typically vertical, moorings affixed to the seabed directly underneath the foundation.

The TLP technology offers potentially the most stable of floating wind turbine foundations but prefers deeper water deployment due to the additional cost and complexity of engineering the deployment and anchoring systems. Another exciting opportunity is in concrete, there are huge concrete semi-submersible designs, and concrete barge technologies, neither of which have yet been deployed in the UK at commercial scale.

Each of these technologies offers a particular opportunity to the UK supply chain where certain areas of the UK are well equipped to support concrete production and deployment, while others favour steel, and each have a different economic and engineering proposition to offer the developers and owner/operators of floating wind farms. But until we deploy examples of all the technologies in stepping-stone projects, on a competitive basis, we are not going to sufficiently de-risk them for the next generation of ‘industrial scale’ floating wind projects resulting in a limited choice of technology options potentially unoptimized for the specific UK requirements. After all the first monopile and jacket wind farms weren’t a hundred turbines each for many reasons, not just the cost…

 

A day in the life of Miriam Noonan

Miriam is Commercial Manager at Floventis. A graduate of Imperial College London with a 2:1 MEng (Hons) in Civil and Environmental Engineering, she first joined the offshore wind industry in 2016 having previously worked for BP. She tells us about her career path to date and her role working on the development of Llŷr 1 and 2.

What does your role involve?

I joined the team in 2021 as commercial manager responsible for the creation and ongoing development of business cases for offshore wind projects including Llŷr 1&2 in the Celtic Sea. I produce accurate, quantitative evidence to support decision making during the development phase of our projects, such as turbine selection and port strategies, so that Floventis can minimise project costs and manage commercial risks.

 What experience did you have before joining the business?
I worked for ORE Catapult, an offshore renewables innovation centre, for five years before joining Cierco. During this time,  I supported a range of organisations, from small start-ups to large original equipment manufacturers to accelerate the adoption of new technologies in the industry and was involved in a range of cost-focused industry programmes. For example, I led the offshore wind work stream for IEA Wind Task 26 (Cost of wind energy) before becoming a senior financial analyst in 2019 responsible for leading wave and tidal sector engagement with senior industry and policy stakeholders. I was promoted again in 2020 to analysis and insights manager, leading projects related to offshore renewables cost reduction, UK supply chain and economic value and energy policy. This included a number of studies for the Floating Offshore Wind Centre of Excellence.

Tell us about your achievements to date

I am proud of several industry policy reports that I have been involved in. I was lead author on the milestone report “Floating Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Pathways to Subsidy Free” which outlined a number of Floating Offshore Wind (FOW) cost reduction pathways to subsidy free levels. Based on GIS mapping, we identified potential zones for FOW development and established deployment profiles that meet, and exceed, targets for Net Zero.

 

 

I then developed a bottom-up cost model to estimate a site-specific cost based on technical and environmental parameters and overlaid a component-specific learning rate made up of three individual factors, based either on UK only or global deployment: technology innovation, supply chain competition and economies of scale. The subsequent cost reduction profiles, reviewed and approved by members of the Floating Offshore Wind Centre of Excellence, were adopted as representative industry forecasts, with several policy recommendations implemented as a result including- a Celtic Sea leasing round and higher short to medium term to deployment targets set by the government to provide certainty to the market.

What are the challenges ahead?

FOW projects are under immense pressure to both reduce costs and simultaneously create local jobs and investment in the UK economy – two objectives at odds with each other. I am producing modelling that will enable the team to assess the most efficient use of budget to maximise local content with the minimum incremental cost to the project. It’s important because we want to make sure that our projects deliver economic and environmental value for the region, but also reduce power prices.

What advice do you have for others wanting to enter the industry?

Offshore wind is an exciting industry to work in. Every project is pushing boundaries and breaking records. From apprenticeships through to senior leadership roles, there is an array of opportunity – engineers, scientists and project managers are just some of the jobs available for those starting out or transferring from other sectors. Come and talk to us – we’re always happy to chat with those interested in floating offshore wind.

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