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Offshore Wind - Makani’s energy kite in the North Sea
Offshore Wind - SeaTwirl's innovative concept

This world-leading North Sea test centre holds the future of floating offshore wind

The floating offshore wind adventure had a slow start.

Now, companies are flocking to Norway to test their turbines at the Marine Energy Test Centre in Karmøy.

Offshore wind is a key component of the energy mix of the future, and Norwegian companies can deliver along the entire supply chain.

Arvid Nesse, General Manager of Marine Energy Test Centre (METCentre) and Cluster Manager of Norwegian Offshore Wind, predicts a bright future for Norwegian floating offshore wind (FOW).

"“Things were a bit slow in the beginning. But interest has now picked up considerably.”"

Arvid Nesse, General Manager, METCentre

“Our ambition is to become the world’s leading supply chain for floating wind. And now’s the time because Norway has a very good position in the market. We’ve gathered every competency that’s needed. We have players in our vicinity that cover nearly the entire value chain for wind turbines: foundations, cables, operations, maintenance, legal services, and more,” he says.

There is no doubt that offshore wind will be a key part of tomorrow’s energy mix – in Europe and around the world. The European Commission estimates that offshore wind must generate as much as 450 GW by 2050 for Europe to become climate neutral. Total global capacity from offshore wind is currently 23 GW, which means that production will need to increase twelvefold.

Solutions that bring down the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) of offshore wind will be critical. This represents a tremendous business opportunity for innovative energy companies, many of whom are coming to Karmøy island off Western Norway to test their designs.

Their destination is METCentre, which offers infrastructure and services for testing offshore wind concepts in the North Sea.

Exceptionally knowledgeable and customer-oriented

Although floating offshore wind is a relatively new field, METCentre already has a proud history. Equinor installed the world’s very first floating wind turbine, Hywind Demo, here, back in 2009.

That was an important first step towards the opening of the world’s first floating wind farm, Hywind Scotland, in 2017. Today, the wind farm supplies 36 000 UK households with electricity.

Offshore Wind - Hywind Scotland
Hywind Scotland is the world’s first floating wind farm.

The next generation of floating turbines is now being tested at METCentre.

One of these is the Danish company Stiesdal’s TetraSpar concept, developed in collaboration with Shell and Innogy. TetraSpar is a low-cost floating offshore wind turbine platform which will bring down the LCOE of floating wind to close to that of bottom-fixed offshore wind, the cheaper but more limited option.

“We chose to do our testing at METCentre because they smooth out red tape and provide valuable support vis-à-vis the authorities and other stakeholders. There are far fewer bureaucratic challenges here than other places,” says Henrik Stiesdal, founder and CEO of Stiesdal.

The company installed its model in METCentre’s test area in 2021, where it will remain for at least five years.

"“The quality of the centre’s activities is exceptionally high, and they are also very customer-oriented,”"

Henrik Stiesdal, founder and CEO, Stiesdal

“The centre has helped us in many ways. First and foremost, with the authorities, but also by facilitating contact with relevant local players and suppliers.”

“The quality of the centre’s activities is exceptionally high, and they are also very customer-oriented,” Stiesdal adds.

Hosting an ambitious Horizon 2020 project

Other forward-thinking projects are also using METCentre. In 2021, TetraSpar was joined by Sweden’s SeaTwirl concept, another innovative floating wind turbine. The California-based company Makani has already tested its ground-breaking energy kite here.

The FLAGSHIP floating offshore wind project – which will be tested at METCentre – was awarded EUR 25 million under Horizon 2020. The project seeks to reduce the LCOE of floating wind to EUR 40–60/MWh by 2030.

“The project involves a new type of floating foundation in concrete. The largest floating wind turbines today have a capacity of around 8 MW. But this foundation can support bigger turbines which can generate over 10 MW, and maybe even up to 20,” explains Arvid Nesse.

The floating concrete foundation has been developed by the Norwegian company Dr Techn Olav Olsen AS. The project is being led by the Spanish energy company Iberdrola and has Danish, French, German, Norwegian and Spanish partners.

“The Horizon 2020 grant is an important recognition of the Norwegian offshore industry’s ability to restructure and use its know-how to create new technology for renewables,” he points out.

Landscape with floating offshore wind turbines
Karmøy, Norway, is home to METCentre and the world's first floating offshore wind turbine, Zephyros.

A world-leading supply chain

METCentre is the only testing area for offshore wind solutions in the North Sea and is licenced for installation of six floating wind turbines, in addition to Zephyros. It is conveniently located about 10 km from the coast, close to shipyards, ports and deepwater quays.

Meanwhile, Karmøy itself is at the geographical heart of the Norwegian offshore industry, which possesses world-leading expertise in floating and bottom-fixed maritime installations.

METCentre is also the administrative body of Norwegian Offshore Wind, the largest offshore wind cluster in Norway with more than 370 member companies.

"The cluster is working to expand the Norwegian supply chain."

Arvid Nesse

“Innovation and testing of concepts and technologies to reduce costs is an important part of this. We have also worked to set the stage for industrial floating wind in Norway. Hywind Tampen, Utsira Nord and Sørlige Nordsjø II will be incredibly important for the Norwegian offshore wind industry. In addition, the cluster’s member companies collaborate in targeting international wind power markets,” Nesse concludes.