Video: Mating a floating wind turbine

A revolutionary offshore renewable energy project reveals how innovation depends on reliable materials, writes Lauren Lavazi

With the world’s population growing and its demand for energy increasing, it’s more important than ever to explore new forms of sustainable energy. International energy company Statoil has taken note of this situation and, just off the Scottish coast, the company is building Hywind: the world’s first floating wind farm.

Statoil has adapted the same technology used for its floating oil facilities, known as spar platforms, to revolutionise the way wind farms operate. The Hywind facility places conventional wind turbines on top of floating steel cylinders, which are held in place by cables and suction anchors. The cylinders float 78 metres below sea level and hold large pockets of air. This works to keep the turbines afloat, much like a ship’s hull.

The turbines are being assembled off the west coast of Norway, where the 162-metre tall turbines are loaded onto the floating steel cylinders by the world’s second largest crane vessel, the Saipem 7000, before being towed across the North Sea to the coast of Scotland where they will provide power to Scottish homes.

“We believe this technology is a game changer,” says Elin Isaksen, Communication Leader at Statoil. “Lots of shores are actually too deep for conventional turbines, so we believe floating fixed installations are the only viable alternative in many areas.”

Hywind demonstrates that steel has a crucial role to play in the development of sustainable energy resources. Offshore wind farms face rough weather conditions and sturdy, safe materials are vital to their success. Hywind shows that old-fashioned reliability and strength is the key to innovation and sustainability.

Lauren Lavazi wrote this article for the World Steel Association.