Sea swells can cause vibrations that damage equipment in floating substations, while cables can be damaged by a build-up of shells and algae, the Electricity Transport Network said. These problems must be addressed before floating wind power can be successful on a large scale, and RTE is among the operators trying to solve them.
This nascent segment of the clean energy industry would significantly expand the potential areas of the sea where power producers could install turbines. In many places, the best wind resources are found in places where the water is too deep to build a structure from the seabed. But the new floating technology is expensive and at risk of damage from waves and marine life.
Substations are used to change the voltage of electricity produced by offshore wind farms so that it can be delivered more easily and safely ashore. One solution under study is a floating version capable of withstanding strong swells, said Régis Boigegrain, responsible for maritime affairs at RTE, responsible for connecting French offshore turbines to the network.
“As long as we know how to technically do this,” it would avoid the substantial cost of building a substation on the seabed, he told a conference.
Such a substation could be considered for two projects in the Mediterranean Sea, which the French government plans to tender next year, according to Boigegrain. RTE is working with partners such as the French shipyard Chantiers de L’Atlantique to see whether the floats can sufficiently absorb the swell and minimize vibrations.
High-voltage cables will also need to be strong enough to withstand swells, as well as “bio-fouling” – the build-up of shells, algae and sponges – which can be so heavy as to cause damage. said Boigegrain.
The challenges of growing the offshore wind industry are not limited to France. Earlier this year, developer Orsted A / S discovered that cables from a wind farm off the UK had been damaged by scratching against rocks on the seabed.
The two countries – and South Korea – have the greatest opportunities for floating wind power this decade, according to a BloombergNEF report.