The Major Hurdles in Unlocking the Future of Floating Wind

Westwood Floating Offshore Wind Survey Chart. (Image credit: Westwood)

A survey by Westwood Global Energy Group (Westwood), the specialist energy market research and consultancy firm, reveals a lack of standardization of floating technology (55%), manufacturing capability and capacity (51%) and port infrastructure (50%) as the most commonly cited major hurdles and risks to floating offshore wind progress, indicating a need for accelerated investment, regulation and supply chain co-ordination globally for the sector to achieve its ambitions.

The research, developed in partnership with Norwegian Offshore Wind and World Forum Offshore Wind (WFO), surveyed 184 floating offshore wind stakeholders on industry sentiment and attitudes across the value chain. Aligning with the hurdles, calls are ringing out for governments to provide more specific policy and regulatory support for technology development in addition to cost reduction and investment in port infrastructure to accelerate adoption.

General consensus deviates when it comes to the question of optimism, relative to two years ago, when ambitious targets were set for the development of the industry. 42% of European respondents are less optimistic about the floating offshore wind sector than they were two years ago, compared with 30% for non-Europe. Globally, 44% of developers are more optimistic about the sector than two years ago whereas that shrinks to just under a quarter of supply chain respondents, potentially pointing to a lag in projects coming to tender for their services.

Additional analysis from Westwood’s WindLogix solution notes that the recent market upheaval caused primarily by cost inflation, together with the subsequent re-focusing of developer strategies, will mean global floating offshore targets will all be missed. The majority of respondents (54%) expect <3GW of global capacity to be operational by 2030, with Europe reaching 0.5 – 2GW in the same timeframe (61%).

David Linden, Head of Energy Transition, Westwood said: “These are significant and familiar challenges for an industry in infancy, as first-movers look to establish reliable supply chains and weigh up investment risk. But despite these known obstacles and a more realistic picture of near-term growth, optimism hasn’t wavered as much as anticipated. The enthusiasm accompanying the flurry of activity following the 2022 leasing rounds and target setting has naturally waned, but our survey results demonstrate the appetite in the sector.

“Right now, it’s a question of pace. While the UK is still heralded as a clear front runner of floating offshore wind’s future, chosen by 71% of responders, it needs to deliver. We’re also seeing South Korea and China building out their respective supply chains, and other countries such as France making some bold commitments, resulting in diverse views on the achievable pace of growth in the run up to 2040. Direct investment in infrastructure and technology coupled with more focused policy are likely to be pivotal pace setters.”

Arvid Nesse, CEO, Norwegian Offshore Wind concluded: “Right now, most respondents remain confident, but realistic, about the potential for floating wind.

But we need to build manufacturing capability and capacity. And we also need to invest in infrastructure and port capacities. To accelerate the investments in these capacities, the investors need to see a plan from the governments in the countries where floating wind is most relevant. Such a plan must indicate volumes and a timeline.

The pressure is really on for governments to step up and de-risk projects by speeding up permitting and establish financial support mechanisms.”

Released at the Norwegian Offshore Wind’s Floating Wind Days in Haugesund, Norway, Westwood’s full Floating Offshore Wind Survey 2024 is available for download here.

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