Project to Reduce Costs and Improve Economic Feasibility of Floating Wind Farm Technology

September 6, 2019

The National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium (Consortium) today announced it has selected the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for contract negotiation for its first offshore wind research and development (R&D) technology award. The project is designed to improve the economic feasibility of floating wind farm technology and is an important step in advancing the Consortium’s long-term strategy to further drive down costs of offshore wind development in the United States.

Robert Catell, Chairman of the Board, Chairman of the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC) said, “ The Consortium is delighted to make its first award to NREL, a federal research institution which is in the forefront of advancing renewable technologies. This $300,000 award will focus on shared mooring systems for floating wind farms to require fewer anchors resulting in lower costs, consistent with reducing the long-term cost of offshore wind as it becomes a greater part of our energy mix. The Consortium looks forward to this being the first of a series of awards consistent with its mission to lower long-term energy costs.”

Carrie Cullen Hitt, Executive Director, National Offshore Wind Research and Development Authority said, “I’m pleased to announce the Consortium’s first award to NREL for important foundational research. This project is a critical step toward creating a cost efficient and sustainable supply chain to support the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry.”

NREL, a federal research institution that advances the science and engineering of energy efficiency, sustainable transportation and renewable energy technologies, has been awarded $300,000 for its “Shared Mooring Systems for Deep Floating Wind Farms” project. NREL will assess the potential of shared mooring lines to reduce floating wind farm costs by connecting adjacent turbine platforms and distributing load throughout the wind farm so that anchors are only required on the outer turbines, resulting in fewer anchors, fewer mooring lines and lower costs. As part of the project, NREL will design and update their modeling tools to support floating wind farms with shared mooring systems. This feasibility study will help inform future work of consortium partners and developers as they consider best practices for advancing offshore wind energy in an environmentally and economically responsible way.

“This selection is important to further the commercialization of offshore floating wind in the U.S.,” said Senu Sirnivas, principal engineer for NREL’s offshore wind energy technology programs. “Station-keeping system components and installation costs directly affect levelized cost of energy. In order for offshore floating wind to become more competitive with other energy sources, this project explores the economic feasibility of shared mooring systems for station-keeping and to provide the industry with design tools to explore cost reductions.”

Many of the potential offshore wind project sites in the U.S. are located in deep waters, unlike much of Europe which is known for its shallow waters. Traditional fixed-bottom turbines, with a solid support structure anchored directly to the sea floor, are not feasible in waters deeper than 60 meters. Floating turbines anchored to the sea floor are attractive for deeper waters. However, as the depth increases, the cost to keep turbines anchored significantly increases due to the need for longer mooring lines to secure the floating turbine foundation to the seabed. According to U.S. DOE, in the United States, more than 58 percent of the total technical offshore wind resource is located in water depths greater than 60 meters where floating offshore wind technology will be used. This expansive market potential will be further advanced through today’s awarded project.

This project, which will help to mitigate depth-related cost increases and improve the economic feasibility of floating wind farms in deep water, is a result of the Consortium’s initial comprehensive solicitation for offshore wind technology projects as called for in its Research and Development Roadmap. Under the solicitation announced in March, the Consortium seeks proposals that foster significant reductions in the lifetime average cost of offshore wind energy while overcoming domestic market challenges in offshore wind technology. Each proposal is required to address one of the following areas: wind turbine array performance and control optimization; cost-reducing turbine support structures for the U.S. market; floating structure mooring concepts for shallow and deep waters; or power system design and innovation.

In June 2018, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority was awarded $18.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to lead a nationwide offshore wind technology research and development consortium. As the first federally funded public-private partnership focused on advancing offshore wind technology in the United States, the Consortium, as a not-for-profit organization, aims to develop cost-effective and responsible development of offshore wind and to maximize economic benefits to the United States. The grant from DOE was matched by financial support from NYSERDA for a term of four years. NYSERDA is administering this initial solicitation on behalf of the Consortium and will be accepting proposals through December 31, 2019.

Members of Consortium include Public Sponsor Members: Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME); the Maryland Energy Administration; Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC); and NYSERDA; Independent Members: The Carbon Trust International, Inc. and Renewables Consulting Group; Private Sponsor Members: Anbaric Development Partners and GE Renewable Energy as well as Offshore Wind Developer Members; Avangrid Renewables; EDF Renewables; EDP Renewables; EnBW North America, Equinor; Innogy; Northland Power; Ørsted, Shell and Vineyard Wind.