The ‘world’s largest floating wind farm’ produces its first power

Offices of Equinor photographed in Feb. 2019. Equinor is one of several companies looking at developing floating wind farms.

Odin Jaeger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A facility described as the world’s largest floating wind farm produced its first power over the weekend, with more turbines set to come online before the year is out.

In a statement Monday, Norwegian energy firm Equinor — better known for its work in the oil and gas industry — said power production from Hywind Tampen’s first wind turbine took place on Sunday afternoon.

While wind is a renewable energy source, Hywind Tampen will be used to help power operations at oil and gas fields in the North Sea. Equinor said Hywind Tampen’s first power was sent to the Gullfaks oil and gas field.

“I am proud that we have now started production at Hywind Tampen, Norway’s first and the world’s largest floating wind farm,” Geir Tungesvik, Equinor’s executive vice president for projects, drilling and procurement, said.

“This is a unique project, the first wind farm in the world powering producing oil and gas installations.”

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Hywind Tampen is located around 140 kilometers (86.9 miles) off the coast of Norway, in depths ranging from 260 to 300 meters.

Seven of the wind farm’s turbines are slated to come on stream in 2022, with installation of the remaining four taking place in 2023. When complete, Equinor says it will have a system capacity of 88 megawatts.

Alongside Equinor, the other companies involved in the project are Vår Energi, INPEX Idemitsu, Petoro, Wintershall Dea and OMV.

Equinor said Hywind Tampen was expected to meet around 35% of the Gullfaks and Snorre fields’ electricity demand. “This will cut CO2 emissions from the fields by about 200,000 tonnes per year,” the company added.

The use of a floating wind farm to help power the production of fossil fuels is likely to spark some controversy, however.

Fossil fuels’ effect on the environment is considerable and the United Nations says that, since the 19th century, “human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.”

Speaking at the COP27 climate change summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last week, the U.N. Secretary General issued a stark warning to attendees.

“We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing,” Antonio Guterres said. “Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing, global temperatures keep rising, and our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”

An emerging industry

Equinor said the turbines at Hywind Tampen were installed on a floating concrete structure, with a joint mooring system. One advantage of floating turbines is that they can be installed in deeper waters than fixed-bottom ones.

Back in 2017, Equinor started operations at Hywind Scotland, a five-turbine, 30 MW facility it calls the world’s first floating wind farm.

Since then, a number of major companies have made moves in the sector.

In Aug. 2021, RWE Renewables and Kansai Electric Power signed an agreement to assess the feasibility of a “large-scale floating offshore wind project” in waters off Japan’s coast.

In Sept. of that year, Norwegian company Statkraft announced a long-term purchasing agreement relating to a 50 MW floating wind farm — which it has also dubbed the “world’s largest” — off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland.

And a few months later, in Dec. 2021, plans for three major offshore wind developments in Australia — two of which are looking to incorporate floating wind tech — were announced.

Earlier this year, meanwhile, the White House said it was targeting 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind capacity by the year 2035.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is launching coordinated actions to develop new floating offshore wind platforms, an emerging clean energy technology that will help the United States lead on offshore wind,” a statement, which was also published by U.S. Department of the Interior, said at the time.

As well as the 15 GW ambition, a “Floating Offshore Wind Shot” aims to reduce the costs of floating technologies by over 70% by the year 2035.

“Bringing floating offshore wind technology to scale will unlock new opportunities for offshore wind power off the coasts of California and Oregon, in the Gulf of Maine, and beyond,” the statement added.

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