Hawaiian company to develop new mooring method for grid-scale floating wind, marine energy

Makai Ocean Engineering, an ocean technology and engineering firm based in Hawaii, U.S., will develop new mooring and anchoring methods for grid-scale floating offshore wind turbines and hydrokinetic systems, according to the US Department of Energy, which just awarded the company $849,952 to develop its solution.

Illustration; WindFloat 1 project; Photo: Principle Power

The new methods are said to enable reducing the costs of offshore renewable energy and deploying floating wind turbines and marine energy devices in areas that would otherwise not be accessible or would be too expensive with current mooring and anchoring technologies.

Makai’s approach involves remotely installing micropiles on the seafloor to allow for the installation of an anchorage strong enough to secure these systems. This approach does not require large and costly equipment and vessels, dramatically reducing the initial installation costs, according to information available on DOE’s website.

Makai secured DOE funding this month together with 67 other research and development projects aimed at developing disruptive technologies to strengthen the US advanced energy enterprise.

For the 68 projects, DOE awarded $175 million through the OPEN 2021 programme, led by the Department’s its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which prioritises funding high-impact, high-risk technologies that support novel approaches to clean energy challenges.

The selected projects are coordinated by universities, national laboratories, and private companies, and revolve around advancing technologies for a wide range of areas, including electric vehicles, offshore wind, storage and nuclear recycling.

“These investments support President Biden’s climate goals to increase production of domestic clean energy technology, strengthen the nation’s energy security and uplift the economy by creating good-paying jobs”, the DOE stated in a press release on 14 February. 

In March 2021, the Biden-Harris administration set a national target of 30 GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030, which is estimated to support around 77,000 direct and indirect jobs and trigger more than $12 billion per year in capital investment in projects on both U.S. coasts.

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The 2030 target would also unlock a pathway to deploy 110 GW or more of offshore wind capacity by 2050, which would support a total of 135,000 jobs by that time: 77,000 in offshore wind and 58,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity.

Since the beginning of last year, the U.S. has accelerated its offshore wind development efforts and now has two offshore wind farms under construction.

After its first large-scale offshore wind farm entered construction in November 2021, the U.S. government has also given the final go-ahead to the country’s second project, the South Fork offshore wind farm in New York, which officially moved into the construction phase on 14 February.

The government is also set to hold a lease sale for the New York Bight area this month, the first offshore wind lease sale to be organised under the Biden-Harris administration and the biggest in the U.S. yet, with six areas available for offshore wind developers to bid for.