The WindFloat Project developed an innovative technology to the exploitation of wind potential at sea, at depths of more than 40m.
The innovation focus of the project was the conception of a floating foundation, based on the experiences from the oil and gas industry, to support multi-MW wind turbines in offshore applications. The floating foundation is semi-submersible, anchored to the seabed. Its stability is due to the use of "water entrapment plates" on the bottom of the three pillars, associated with a static and dynamic ballast system. WindFloat adapts to any type of offshore wind turbine. It is built entirely onshore - including the installation of the turbine - thus avoiding the use of scarce marine resources.
The WindFloat 1 Project encompassed the design and construction of a demonstration unit, using a commercial 2MW turbine. The unit has been installed off the Portuguese coast, close to Aguçadoura, and was connected to the grid by the end of December2011. The project constitutes the first offshore wind deployment worldwide, which did not require the use of heavy lift equipment offshore. This is the first offshore wind turbine in open Atlantic waters and the first deployment of a semi-submersible structure supporting a multi-megawatt wind turbine.
The WindFloat 1 operated for 5 years with high availability, producing more than 17GWh at sea states up to 7m of significant wave weight and surviving waves of 17m.
The next step in the development of WindFloat technology will be the precommercial phase: WindFloat Atlantic (WFA), the world's first floating wind power plant.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted in October 2018 a EUR 60 million loan to Windplus S.A., a subsidiary of EDP Renováveis (79.4%), Repsol S.A. (19.4%) and Principle Power Inc. (1.2%). The EUR 60 million loan will finance the floating wind farm with the support of the InnovFin Energy Demonstration Project facility, which is funded under the EU’s current research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. In addition, the project will receive EUR 29.9 million from the EU’s NER300 programme, and up to EUR 6 million from the Government of Portugal, through the Portuguese Carbon Fund.
The installation of the first Windfloat Atlantic turbine on its floating platform took place in July 2019, in the outer harbor of Ferrol, marking a major milestone for the Windfloat Atlantic project and the offshore wind energy sector as this is the largest turbine ever to be installed on a floating platform.
The fabrication and load out of this first WindFloat was successfully completed in Fene (Spain) and the platform has been moored to the quayside in Ferrol, where the installation of the wind turbine will begin. The assembly will take place during the summer, in preparation for the offshore operations, scheduled for the end of summer, when the floating structure will depart for its final destination off the coast of Viana do Castelo (Portugal).
The project belongs to the Windplus consortium, which is jointly owned by EDP Renováveis (54.4%), ENGIE (25%), Repsol (19.4%) and Principle Power Inc. (1.2%). The three turbines that comprise the wind farm will be mounted on floating platforms anchored to the seabed, and will collectively deliver an installed capacity of 25 MW—equivalent to the energy consumed by 60,000 homes in one year. Additionally, this technology has great advantages that make it more accessible and affordable, including its assembly by standard onshore cranes on dry land (at the port) and the use of common maritime transportation methods, such as tugboats, instead of expensive offshore installation vessels.
WindFloat Atlantic uses cutting-edge technology from Principle Power, which enables the installation of floating platforms in deep waters that were previously inaccessible, and where abundant wind resources can be harnessed. The wind farm will be located 20 kilometers off the coast of Viana do Castelo, where the water depth reaches 100 meters.
In 2016, another project was approved in France, with 4 platforms using 6MW wind turbines, mounted on the WindFloat platform. The "Les éoliennes flottantes du golfe du lion" (EFGL) project is being conceived by Engie, EDP Renewables and Caisse des Dépôts and should reach COD by 2020.
These two projects will demonstrate the low risk profile and economic competitiveness of the technology, preparing the way for future commercial size floating offshore wind farms.