Offshore contractor Subsea 7 has entered into a joint venture with Irish renewable energy developer Simply Blue Energy to build a 200-megawatt floating wind array in the North Sea off Scotland.
The project, dubbed Salamander, has been launched ahead of the ScotWind offshore wind auction, which faced several delays and an emergency review by the Scottish authorities but is now moving ahead to begin taking bids on acreage later this year.
“Scotland is one of the best locations on the planet for the development of floating wind projects. As a developer, we want to contribute to the development of this market,” said Simply Blue chief executive Sam Roch-Perks.
Salamander, which is named after a 16th century Royal Scots Navy warship, is intended to combine Simply Blue Energy’s experience in floating wind developments in the Celtic Sea, with Subsea 7’s expertise in delivering offshore energy projects in Scotland.
The companies have formed a joint venture partnership where Subsea 7 has a minority interest and will develop a pre-commercial project.
Subsea 7 provided additional clarification to Upstream, confirming that the company will be sticking to its role as a provider of engineering, procurement, construction and installation (EPCI) services.
“We look forward to working with Simply Blue Energy with the aim of bringing the project to a point where a strategic investor can come onboard," the company stated.
“We are pleased to be involved in this collaborative project in floating offshore wind in our capacity as an EPCI service company, not as a developer. This is aligned with Subsea 7’s strategy on proactive participation in the energy transition. It’s important for us to be investing in future skills and services that the industry needs.
Energy consultant, Xodus Group, subsidiary of Subsea 7, has been supporting the Salamander project from the inception stage and will continue to work with the project to develop the concept in readiness for acquiring a lease from the Crown Estate Scotland.
This engagement is intended to facilitate opportunity to develop a sustainable Scottish supply chain, the company stated.
Subsea 7 chief executive John Evans said: “We believe floating wind has an important role to play in the energy transition and low-carbon future.
He added: "We look forward to working with Simply Blue Energy with the aim of bringing the project to a point where a strategic investor can come onboard.”
Roch-Perks told Upstream renewable energy sister publication Recharge the “initial development programme [at Salamander] was well under way with bird and mammal surveys already commenced” at the project site, located 30 kilometres offshore in some 95 metres of water.”
Simply Blue is currently developing the giant 1-gigawatt Emerald floating wind project with Shell and the 300MW Valorous and 100MW Erebus pre-commercial arrays with Total in the Celtic Sea, as well as 1.1GW Western Star floating wind-wave development in the Irish Atlantic.
“These projects are focused on helping local supply chain develop their operations using a phased approach. Specifically, in Scotland, commercial projects are anticipated to be developed under the ScotWind leasing process,” said Roch-Perks.
Roch-Perks highlighted that, with Salamander, Simply Blue’s current pipeline of projects in the UK “has the opportunity to deliver up to 60% of [the UK government’s] 1GW by 2030 floating wind target set in 2020”.
Salamander’s floating foundation concept, which will feature “several [as-yet-unspecified] innovations”, is being guided by “local deliverability”, he added. The developer will work with Scottish energy sector cluster DeepWind to enable “approximately 50% more Scottish ports to be considered for marshalling and assembly than would otherwise be the case”.
“The Salamander project has followed a different approach to selecting a foundation technology. We have studied the capabilities of the supply chain in Scotland and, after a thorough analysis, we are focusing on a technology that we believe can, to a significant extent, be delivered locally” said Roch-Perks.
He added that previous projects, despite best intentions, "have not achieved the hoped-for regional supply chain benefits....we believe that for the supply chain to capitalise on the opportunities from ScotWind, a stepping-stone project like Salamander is needed.”
DeepWind head Paul O’Brien said: “This completes a Celtic triple with Simply Blue now developing floating wind projects in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Even better is their plan to develop the local supply chain in Scotland to help deliver Salamander as a precursor to the commercial-scale floating wind projects coming in the ScotWind leasing round. Great news all round.”
Scotland opened the gates on ScotWind, the first round of offshore wind leasing in Scottish waters, much of it in depths ideal for floaters, for a decade, in January.
The launch of this auction is widely seen as a “vital” accelerant in the development of the sector in the North Sea with expectations the tender could uncork a £9 billion ($11.5 billion) wave of investment in the regional industry as some 10GW of new plant is built.
Floating wind markets are on the verge of explosive growth globally, with recent analysis from UK-based low carbon advisory body the Carbon Trust calculating last year that over 70GW of floating wind could be turning by 2040 — a near-1000-fold expansion of the current global fleet — as international supply chains take shape to support development of commercial-scale projects around the world.
DNV, meanwhile, in its latest Energy Transition Outlook, forecast some 260GW of floating wind turning worldwide by 2050, but this expansion hinges on the sector reducing LCOE to €40 to 60/MWh ($50 to 75/per megawatt-hour) from levels today that are three times as high.
(A version of this article first appeared in Upstream renewable energy sister publication Recharge on 29 March 2021.)