The Anonymous Widower

Are Floating Wind Farms The Future?

Boris Johnson obviously thinks so, as he said this about floating wind farms at the on-line Tory conference today.

We will invest £160m in ports and factories across the country, to manufacture the next generation of turbines.

And we will not only build fixed arrays in the sea; we will build windmills that float on the sea – enough to deliver one gigawatt of energy by 2030, 15 times floating windmills, fifteen times as much as the rest of the world put together.

Far out in the deepest waters we will harvest the gusts, and by upgrading infrastructure in such places as Teesside and Humber and Scotland and Wales we will increase an offshore wind capacity that is already the biggest in the world.

Just because Boris said it, there is a large amount of comment on the Internet, describing everything he said and floating wind turbines as utter crap.


The Wikipedia entry for floating wind turbines is particularly informative and gives details on their history, economics and deployment.

This is a paragraph from the Wikipedia entry.

Hywind Scotland has 5 floating turbines with a total capacity of 30 MW, and operated since 2017. Japan has 4 floating turbines with a combined 16 MW capacity.

Wikipedia also has an entry for Hywind Scotland, which starts with this sentence.

Hywind Scotland is the world’s first commercial wind farm using floating wind turbines, situated 29 kilometres (18 mi) off Peterhead, Scotland. The farm has five 6 MW Hywind floating turbines with a total capacity of 30 MW. It is operated by Hywind (Scotland) Limited, a joint venture of Equinor (75%) and Masdar (25%)

Wikipedia, also says this about the performance of Hywind Scotland.

In its first two years of operation the facility has averaged a capacity factor in excess of 50%.

That is good performance for a wind farm.


There is more about Hywind on this page of the Equinor web site, which is entitled How Hywind Works.

This is the opening paragraph.

Hywind is a floating wind turbine design based on a single floating cylindrical spar buoy moored by cables or chains to the sea bed. Its substructure is ballasted so that the entire construction floats upright. Hywind combines familiar technologies from the offshore and wind power industries into a new design.

I’ve also found this promotional video on the Equinor web site.

Note that Statoil; the Norwegian government’s state-owned oil company, was renamed Equinor in 2018.

Balaena Structures

In the early 1970s, I did a lot of work for a company called Time Sharing Ltd.

At one point, I ended up doing work for a company in Cambridge started by a couple of engineering professors at the University, which was called Balaena Structures.

They had designed a reusable oil platform, that was built horizontally and then floated out and turned vertically. They couldn’t work out how to do this and I built a mathematical model, which showed how it could be done.

This is said about how the Hywind turbines are fabricated.

Onshore assembly reduces time and risk of offshore operations. The substructures for Hywind Scotland were transported in a horizontal position to the onshore assembly site at Stord on the west coast of Norway. There, the giant spar-structures were filled with close to 8000 tonnes of seawater to make them stay upright. Finally, they were filled with around 5500 tonnes of solid ballast while pumping out approximately 5000 tonnes of seawater to maintain draft.

It sounds like Statoil and Equinor have followed the line of thinking, that I pursued with the Cambridge team.

My simulations of oil platforms, involved much larger structures and they had some other unique features, which I’m not going to put here, as someone might give me a nice sum for the information.

Sadly, in the end Balaena Structures failed.

I actually proposed using a Balaena as a wind power platform in Could a Balaena-Like Structure Be Used As a Wind Power Platform?, which I wrote in 2011.

I believe that their designs could have transformed the offshore oil industry and could have been used to control the Deepwater Horizon accident. I talked about this in The Balaena Lives, which again is from 2011.


It is my view, that floating wind farms are the future.

But then I’ve done the mathematics of these structures!

Did Boris’s advisors, as I doubt he knows the mathematics of oblique cylinders and how to solve simultaneous differential equations, do the mathematics or just read the brochures?

I will predict, that today’s structures will look primitive to some of those developed before 2030.

October 6, 2020 - Posted by | Energy | , , , ,

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