Every week I share and write about some of the biggest stories on the clean energy revolution. This is edition #10.
My aim? To cover the growing interest and investment in cheap, clean energy. It will make our lives vastly better and stop the climate crisis.
I take a tech and financial perspective. What technologies are around the corner? Where is the money coming and going? Who is doing interesting things?
At the beginning of December 2021, the world’s first floating wind turbine foundation started delivering power just off the coast of Norway. It was a key milestone in a new technology that could transform the clean energy industry. (There’s a video at the end of this article covering this area)
Floating wind farms are attractive because winds are more consistent and much stronger deeper into the sea. Moreover, coastal waters are too deep (over 60 metres) for conventional offshore wind turbines in many areas. Anything deeper than 60 metres is too expensive.
The potential is massive
Offshore wind could power the world 11 times over, says Bloomberg NEF research. Nearly 60% of offshore wind energy potential in America is in deep waters, says the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). For Europe that’s as high as 80%. California, for example, is far ahead of other states in clean energy generation but lags behind in offshore wind because its coastal waters are too deep.
The TetraSpar Demonstrator project in Norway is unique in using a ‘modular’ system to build and balance floating wind turbines. It is also the world’s first industrially manufactured floating offshore foundation. That makes construction cheaper and faster. It used a 3.6MW turbine and was assembled in the port of Grenaa in Denmark. The companies involved say the project’s success will lead to many more based on its design and implementation.
There is growing interest in floating wind farms. The Biden administration has greenlit a number of floating wind-farm projects in recent months. California is starting with up to 4.6 GW of floating offshore wind projects. But the leaders are South Korea and Britain.
Floating wind energy projects, MW
Why is wind power getting so cheap?
Two major reasons. Firstly, large-scale production of wind turbines has made them cheaper to produce. Economies of scale always drives down the price.
Secondly, taller wind turbines with longer blades are increasingly getting built. Just four years ago the maximum capacity of an offshore turbine was 8MW. Now companies are building turbines with twice that capacity to generate power.
While floating wind farms are slightly more expensive than conventional offshore wind, prices are due to get even cheaper in coming years. Growth will then be exponential.
Which are the companies involved?
Wind turbine manufacturers are the main beneficiaries of this boom. Siemens Gamesa (Spain), GE (US) and Vestas (Denmark) are now the biggest players. TetraSpar Demonstrator ApS is owned by Shell, TEPCO Renewable Power, RWE, and Stiesdal Offshore Technologies.
Other news this week
One of the world’s largest battery-based energy storage systems, powered by Tesla’s utility-scale Megapack batteries, began operating in the Australian state of Victoria on Wednesday.
Global wind power group Iberdrola and Swedish startup H2 Green Steel plan to build a vast renewable hydrogen plant on the Iberian peninsula to make ‘green steel’.
Mainstream Renewable Power, a global wind and solar company, has raised €90 million in additional funding to build more GW scale wind and solar farms across Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific.
The UK Government is investing £800,000 in tidal energy pioneer Nova Innovation to develop a low-cost, rapid turbine deployment and recovery solution. 100 GW of tidal energy resources are potentially available worldwide.
Britain’s Octopus Energy has raised $300 million of investment to value the power supplier at $5 billion. It recently had investment from Al Gore’s investment fund too.
McDonald’s has opened its first net-zero carbon restaurant. The wind turbine and solar panel-powered restaurant is in Market Drayton, Shropshire. The company says it will act as a blueprint for future new builds.