Renewable wind-ustry calls for more subsidies to launch floating turbine farms off Scotland

Graphic showing height of Hywind Scotland floating wind-turbine platform compared to Big Ben
Graphic showing height of Hywind Scotland floating wind-turbine platform compared to Big Ben

The UK risks forfeiting leadership on floating windfarms because of a withdrawal of subsidies that could leave projects without funding.

At least two proposed floating wind farms off Scotland will not go ahead, according to Renewable UK, unless a subsidy scheme due for expiry in October 2018 is extended.

The first floating wind farm opened off the coast of Peterheid last October. Three more are now in development, but two will not be completed in time to meet an October deadline to qualify for a form of subsidies known as Renewables Obligation Certificates.

Renewable UK has called for be an 18-month extension of the deadline to April 2020.

A renewables spokesman said: “Without this first group of projects we will not be able to build UK expertise and that would be a huge lost opportunity.”

Floating windfarms could have a number of advantages over conventional offshore windfarms. They can be placed in deeper waters where the wind is stronger and less variable. The turbines can be fully assembled close to shore before being towed out to sea and they could have less impact on wildlife than other types of wind turbine.

But with the technology still in its infancy and the costs relatively high, the question remains when, or if, they will be able to compete against fixed offshore wind turbines or other sources of energy.

As a young technology not yet commercially deployed, the costs of floating wind currently remain high. Early projects will need to be subsidised, meaning the rate of progression will depend to a large extent on political support.

The Hywind pilot is currently heavily subsidised by the Scottish government.

Hywind is subsidised under the UK’s Renewable Obligation Certificate scheme, through which it will receive £160/MWh on top of the wholesale price of electricity (currently around £40/MWh).

Statoil claims the costs of projects such as Hywind can be reduced by 40-50% by 2030. This could bring the cost down to around £100/MWh, similar to conventional offshore today.

A spokesman for the Carbon Trust commented: “Given conventional offshore wind costs are also expected to fall, Statoil’s floating turbines would therefore remain more costly.”

20 Feb 2019

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