Dutch offshore specialist SBM Offshore has revealed its ambition to become a leader in the floating wind segment as it targets being involved in projects with a combined capacity of 2 gigawatts by the end of the decade.

The company revealed in its financial results this week that it intends to co-develop or participate as a technology or turnkey provider in 2GW of an estimated 6GW global pipeline of floating wind projects by 2030.

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SBM chief executive Bruno Chabas explained in a conference call with analysts on Thursday the target showed the company had the ambition to become a market leader in the floating wind segment.

In explaining how the company intended to meet this goal, Chabas stated SBM would draw on its decades of experience serving the oil and gas industry in the floating production, storage and offloading vessel segment.

“When you look at the complexity of offshore wind projects they’re beyond understanding at times. I mean the logistics aspect, the local content aspect, the way you assemble everything, is really quite challenging and really fairly commensurable to what we are doing on the FPSO market,” he explained.

“So we are transferring this experience into the offshore wind market, making us confident, along with the technology that we have and the know-how that we have, that we can reach this ambition.”

Conservative estimates

Analysts also called into question SBM’s expectation that floating wind capacity will only reach 6GW by 2030, with Chabas stating the company was choosing to be more conservative with its estimates.

“Some of the publications that you are reading, this market is going to be huge by tomorrow morning. When you look at the reality of the market — time to tender, time to develop the application and so on — it’s taking time,” Chabas said.

“These projects are big, they are massive. They need to have a logistical aspect, technological aspect, a project management aspect, which is often underestimated.

“Therefore the 6-gigawatt commitment that we see … from now until 2030 is what we believe is a realistic market rather than the pipe dream that some people can have.”

Cost of reaching target

To reach its 2GW floating wind ambition, SBM estimates its development expenditure on floating wind over the next seven to eight years to total between $150 million and $200 million.

“You can look at it as kind of an internal revolving credit facility, which can be drawn for some milestones for development projects as these are progressively matured and de-risked,” SBM chief financial officer Douglas Wood explained in the analyst call.

“Our model will then be to seek to deploy our technology and projects and to sell down the vast majority of our shares before [a final investment decision].

“Of course not all developments will be successful, but with spending controlled by milestones and increasing only as projects are de-risked, we will expect this investment to be recovered as a minimum.”

Proven technology

Chabas stated SBM’s tension leg platform (TLP) design is a proven technology the company is bringing from the oil and gas industry to the renewable market, which he claims will provide a floating wind solution capable of high output with lower costs.

He believes the company’s design offers several benefits, including the reduced seabed footprint of the TLP mooring system, compared with some other floating wind designs.

“This makes an easier subsea configuration and optimises the seabed layout. This is particularly beneficial for the overall wind farm configuration,” Chabas explained.

“The system is very stable with limited motion which enables optimised turbine performance and facilitates more efficient offshore operation.”

He added the TLP concept was scalable to accommodate “almost any turbine size”, while also allowing installation in a wide range of water depths.

Wave energy

SBM is also developing wave-energy technology and Chabas believes there could be opportunities to combine the technology it is developing with floating wind installations.

He noted the limited footprint of the floating wind TLP mooring system to the seabed would allow more systems in the middle, making the wind farm more productive, both in terms of electricity and economically.

“We are developing this [wave energy] technology with the aim of installing it offshore in 2023,” he said.

“Now what can be said is that once we have validated the technology further developments are going to be required, so it’s not really a short access to the market, but we could see opportunities from the wave energy with floating wind.”

Already active in floating wind

SBM has already started its journey into floating wind as a co-developer, partnering with renewable energy project developer Cierco to establish Floventis Energy — a joint-venture company seeking to secure seabed rights and relevant permits to develop and implement floating wind technologies.

Floventis is already working on the Llyr project in the Celtic Sea, which covers the lease of two 100-megawatt floating wind test and demonstration sites, however it is still subject to formal award by the UK’s Crown Estate.

SBM is also providing and installing three floaters and mooring systems for the 25MW Provence Grand Large project in the French Mediterranean.

The company states in its financial results assembly of the first sub-components of the pilot project had already started for the floating substructures to be ready for load-out and installation at the end of 2022.

It added the project remained on track to be the first floating wind project worldwide installed with TLP technology.