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The future’s floating: foundation innovation key to boosting offshore wind max capacity

May 3, 2024

Wind energy offers hope that we could one day say goodbye to fossil fuels and meet our energy requirements from renewable sources alone. In the UK, around 40% of our energy currently comes from renewable sources, and this number is set to increase over the coming years. Indeed, it will need to if we are to meet net-zero targets by 2030.

For us to stay within our climate commitment of slowing global warming and preventing an increase of 1.5°C, our greenhouse emissions need to have hit their peak by 2025 and have declined by 43% by 2030. All of this is within our reach if we can switch focus to renewable energy like wind power.

At present around 80% of wind capacity can be found in deeper waters, but this is beyond the range of fixed-bottom foundations. By switching focus to floating foundations, including semi-submersible platforms and spar buoys, we could greatly increase our capacity to harness the power of the wind.

The current state of wind farming

At present, the monopile is the foundation of choice for wind farm construction. Fixed foundations currently represent around 95.5% of all installations, which includes monopiles, jackets and high-rise pile caps. Only 4.5% of all wind farms feature floating foundations, despite this being the preferred option for deep sea applications.

Many of the complaints around wind farms are that they ruin the scenery close to shore, so taking these farms further offshore and into deeper seas using floating foundations, we could improve public opinion of wind farms and decrease opposition.

While there may be fewer floating foundation wind farms under construction, the range of innovation used for these projects is far wider. New applications like bar floaters and tension-leg platforms are now entering the mix and driving forth innovation.

What does the future hold for wind technology?

A global increase in interest and support for offshore wind means that there are currently 1677 projects now in development. Of these, 976 feature fixed bottom foundations while 497 are floating. This represents a huge shift towards floating technology which could help us to harness more of our wind energy potential in the UK.

It’s also interesting to note that technology for floating foundations is advancing at a much faster rate than fixed bottom foundations. It won’t be long before technology for floating wind farms will outpace fixed-bottom research and innovation. 

What does this mean for employment opportunities?

Any investment and interest in wind power is good news for our engineers. If you’re working in the offshore wind sector, more investment in the sector can only be good news. Increased demand for highly skilled offshore wind technicians will result in increased salaries and more job security. 

A shift in the technology will also mean there is more opportunity for workers in the research and development stages, alongside planning, consents and project management. If you’re looking for your next opportunity in offshore wind technology, get in touch with our team.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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