Energy & Mining

Harnessing the Ocean Sky

The first of its kind, Portugal is building a hugely ambitious floating wind farm set to come online in 2019.

A record 15.6GW of wind energy was installed in the EU in 2017, 12,484MW of which were onshore and 3,154MW offshore. With 11.6% of the EU’s total energy demand now met by wind, this is now the second largest form of power generation capacity in Europe and scarcely behind gas installations, according to Brussels-based advocacy group WindEurope. Portugal, for its part, had 5,313MW of wind capacity installed by the end of 2017, an impressive 38.6% of the country’s total renewable operational capacity.

Already boasting one of the continent’s largest onshore wind farms, Alto Minho, which provides electricity to more than 1 million citizens in the north, Portugal is now ramping up its offshore efforts. Set to come into operation later this year, WindFloat Atlantic, the Iberian Peninsula’s first ever offshore floating wind farm, will provide 25MW of energy—enough to power 60,000 homes—and be able to anchor in depths greater than 40m. Since more than 80% of European offshore wind resources are thought to be located in waters 60m or deeper, and thus not (yet) economically viable, projects of this magnitude are important precedents for the industry. And in addition to being able to withstand winds of 60 knots, WindFloat Atlantic will also be able to withstand waves of up to 17m.

As a central goal of its Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) to develop, standardize, and manufacture improved multi-MW modular floating platforms, the European Commission has been firmly behind the project’s launch. Of the EUR96 billion provided for the farm’s construction, EUR60 billion came from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and another EUR29.9 billion from the Commission’s NER300 program, one of the world’s largest funding programs for innovative low-carbon energy projects. The Portuguese government provided an additional EUR6 million.
To be constructed by Windplus S.A., a subsidiary of Spanish firms EDP Renováveis (79.4%) and Repsol S.A. (19.4%), and American wind power company Principle Power Inc. (1.2%). The first of its kind, it will use Principle Power’s custom-made triangular semisubmersible platforms and be located 20km off the coast of Viana do Castelo near the country’s northwest border with Spain.

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