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19 July 2019

Equinor agrees partnership on 200 MW Korean floating wind project

Equinor says it has agreed a three way partnership with local Korea interests to build the largest floating wind farm in the world. This is not an unexpected event and Rethink Energy flagged it in some detail in our recent floating wind forecast entitled “Floating Wind on the verge of liftoff – Ten year forecast; bright future.”

The 200 MW project will be undertaken with the Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC) and power supplier Korea East-West Power (EWP), for the Donghae 1 floating wind farm.

This will be built on the KNOC operated Donghae natural gas field off the coast of Ulsan, in the country’s southeast. Donghae 1 could begin construction in 2022 and should reach completion during 2024.

Korea has a government driven policy of moving away from nuclear power, after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011 and after it found several instances of falsified safety certificates in components at some South Korea’s existing nuclear power plants in 2012. It has a stated aim of 12 GW of offshore wind by 2030, out of a total of 43 GW of renewables just under half of its entire generation capacity of 106 GW. The bulk of the offshore will have to be floating considering the depth of the water surrounding South Korea.

In June CoensHexicon and Shell announced they too will develop floating wind in South Korea through a similar Joint Development Agreement at a floating wind farm 40 km offshore from Ulsan. It described it as the start of its commercial journey in South Korea. The project is called TwinWind and has obtained a water area offshore and will use the Swedish designed Hexicon floating platform.

Equinor has said publicly that it is no longer religiously attached to the spar bouy design that it pioneered for the world’s only currently operational floating offshore wind farm, the 30 MW Hywind Scotland floating offshore wind farm, built off the coast of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It said it would choose its floating platform based on the individual project requirements. The Hywind design has been criticized for having to be installed and maintained using a ship crane and cannot be simply towed into port and we would not be surprised to see Korean deals use the rival semi-submersible platform from Principle Power.

There are a number of other floating offshore wind farms in various stages of development — including nine in Europe, three in Asia, and a handful in the United States. Floating wind could reach as much as 18 GW by 2030 according to the Rethink report, and accelerate from there.

“We are very pleased to be member of the partnership involved in realizing the first floating offshore wind farm in Asia,” said Stephen Bull, senior vice president for the wind and low carbon cluster of New Energy Solutions in Equinor. “If we succeed in realising the project, the Donghae floating offshore wind project will be the world’s biggest floating wind farm, more than twice the size of Hywind Tampen on the Norwegian continental shelf. A floating offshore wind farm of this size will help further increase the competitiveness of floating offshore wind power in the future.”

The truth is that every new floating wind farm is likely to be the largest for some time to come, and a number of governments are planning multi GW regions.