US: NREL outlines new strategic vision for floating wind

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has recently published a study on floating wind, unveiling a new strategic vision for the sector.

NREL researchers have identified barriers that must be overcome to bring down the overall cost of energy produced, and then outlined a vision for an integrated systems approach with the potential to significantly improve the market feasibility of floating wind plants.

The proposed integrated systems design approach aims to help the industry deploy cost-effective floating turbine systems by 2030.

“While we’ve made great progress with innovations related to individual components and tools, only a comprehensive systems-based approach can allow floating wind technology to fully mature in commercial markets”, said NREL Offshore Wind Platform Lead and study co-author Walt Musial.

“A multidisciplinary effort makes it possible to simultaneously focus on a wide range of factors and then optimize designs to achieve a minimum system cost”.

Cost reductions in floating wind are unlikely to come from a single breakthrough invention, according to the study, but through a complementary combination of innovations in technologies, design features, and installation and operational strategies.

The NREL approach uses a fully integrated systems-engineering and techno-economic design to capture the complex interactions among physics, manufacturing, installation, and operation of floating wind systems and identify optimal designs that dramatically reduce costs.

The current approach to offshore wind system design is iterative, with each company bringing to the table its own area of expertise and profit motive, NREL writes.

“One manufacturer designs the turbine and tower, another company designs the substructure, and sometimes a separate developer tackles array layout and logistics. The tremendous complexity of the physical environment for floating installations and interplay of design components make this divide-and-conquer approach quite costly and less effective in identifying workable solutions”, said NREL Senior Research Engineer and study lead author Garrett Barter.

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