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Market Needs, Opportunities and Barriers for the Floating Wind Industry

Centre for Marine Technology and Ocean Engineering (CENTEC), Instituto Superior Tecnico, Universidade de Lisboa, 1049-001 Lisbon, Portugal
Esteyco, S.A., Avenida de Burgos, 12b-bajo, 28036 Madrid, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2022, 10(7), 934;
Submission received: 20 June 2022 / Revised: 29 June 2022 / Accepted: 4 July 2022 / Published: 7 July 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Offshore Wind Energy)


This paper reviews the status of floating wind energy expansion, market needs, opportunities, and barriers. Even more expensive than many other generation technologies currently, the floating wind will contribute to the decarbonization of Europe. This document assesses the market strategies available to develop floating wind farms in Europe. The study includes four main phases in addition to the overview of the current state-of-the-art: a technology review, market outlook, opportunities, and commercialization barriers. During its development, the offshore wind has moved from experimentation to a final design (Semisubmersible/barge, Tension Leg Platform, and Spar).

1. Introduction

The rapid economic and technological development of society causes an ever-increasing energy dependence. The Energy Information Administration estimates a world energy consumption increase of 50% by 2050 [1]. However, energy production comes at a cost. The consequences of hydrocarbon use are now becoming more present due to the environmental state deterioration. As the energy crisis becomes more pressing, society searches for ways to save the planet.
The European Union (EU) is one of the main consumers of energy. The total electricity consumption in 2019 was over 2428 MWh [2]. The electricity sources are petroleum products (36%), natural gas (22%), renewable energy (15%), and nuclear energy and solid fossil fuels (13%) [3]. Wind energy includes 35% of renewables, representing almost 5% of the total electricity generation [4]. The major wind power producers are Germany and Spain, while total capacity is still increasing [5]. However, offshore wind provides some advantages over onshore wind.
The total available offshore wind resource is more significant than the onshore ones. Moreover, the topography of some coastal regions is not appropriate to host land-based wind power [6]. Additionally, onshore wind farm locations are positioned in regions with scarce populations. In contrast, the optimal offshore sites are near the North and West coasts, areas with a high population density [7]. Offshore turbines reduce visual and noise impact and the “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) phenomenon. However, only Northwestern Europe has a large-scale offshore wind energy industry [8]. This is because the current fixed-bottom technology is only economically feasible in shallow waters.
The floating technology enables the extraction of wind resources from previously expensive or complex areas to fixed-bottom turbine installation. These floating concepts have revived many countries’ interests in offshore wind energy [9].
Europe has set ambitious renewable energy goals to reduce its environmental impact [10]. The vast untapped offshore wind resources will play an important role in fulfilling the energy demands to achieve the renewable energy targets of the EU.
This paper analyzes the readiness of the European Atlantic coast for a floating wind turbine market from the social, technological, legal, and environmental points of view. The general industry and technology trends are described. Recommendations are given to the government to prepare the industry and change policies. Moreover, the suitability of a floating wind market from an economic and technological perspective is analyzed for the EU. This generates the following question: What are the needs, opportunities, and barriers for the floating market in the EU?
The paper follows the following scheme. Section 2 presents a brief description of the operational floating farms. Section 3 reviews the literature related to floating technologies. Section 4 explains the roadmaps of floating wind energy, and Section 5 focuses on the main aspects of the floating wind market. Section 6 summarizes the findings and discusses their implications for the policy and the literature.

2. Floating Wind Farms

Concept development and testing at sea have been a continuum since the installation of the 2.3 MW Hywind and 2 MW WindFloat1 prototypes. Nowadays, several concepts are on sea tests from Europe to Asia. However, these developments have allowed Scotland and Portugal to count on operational floating wind farms.
  • Hywind wind farm.
Commissioned in 2017, it was the first floating wind farm worldwide and is composed of Norwegian technology (Hywind). The farm comprises five turbines, Siemens SWT-6.0-154, with a total capacity of 30 MW. The installation achieved an average capacity factor of 57.1% in 2021. Located in an average water depth of 110 m, the distance to shore is around 25 km.
  • Kincardine wind farm.
The Kincardine floating farm was the third floating wind farm. Currently, this farm is dubbed the world’s largest with a total capacity of 50 MW and consists of five Vestas V164-9.5 MW and one V80-2 MW turbine, each installed on WindFloat semi-submersible platforms. Located 15 km offshore Aberdeenshire, the site achieves water depths from 60 to 80 m. Kincardine will generate over 200 GWh of green electricity annually, enough renewable electricity to power more than 50,000 Scottish households.
  • Windfloat wind farm.
In July 2020, three floating turbines were installed outside Viana do Castelo, Portugal. With three MHI Vestas V164-8.4 MW turbines, the WindFloat Atlantic project has 25 MW of installed capacity. In the first year of operation, WindFloat Atlantic reached 75 GWh, which is enough to supply 60,000 inhabitants. Located 20 km offshore, WindFloat platforms are anchored to the seabed at a water depth of 100 m.
The three wind farms are the first examples of floating wind in a fast-emerging market (see Appendix A and Appendix B) that show the advantages of the floating cleantech.

3. Technology Review

There has been an outbreak of floating foundations in the last decade, revealing several concepts, some of them have reached the demonstration phase or commercial pre-series. This is motivated by the good prospects that the floating wind has to open the possibility to harness the deep-water areas out of the reach of the traditional bottom fixed technologies. Furthermore, floating foundations can be installed in deep and remote waters with stronger wind resources [11,12,13].
Floating structures are also less intrusive to the seabed than bottom-fixed systems. These technologies provide the potential for a simple standardization and mass production in the long term. The floating technologies are divided in mainly four stability philosophies (see Figure 1): spars, semi-submersibles, barges, and TLPs [14,15].
The spar platforms are ballast stabilized, meaning that the gravity center is below the buoyancy center. The semi-submersibles and barge floaters are water plane stabilized, meaning that they provide sufficient inertia at the water plane. The semi-submersible concepts comprise several large columns interconnected by submerged pontoons, providing hydrostatic stability and additional buoyancy. Finally, tension leg platforms (TLPs) are stabilized through their station-keeping system that is in tension. The TLP is anchored to the ocean floor with taut leg mooring lines and drive/suction piles as a buoyant structure. This mooring system needs to support the enormous vertical loads created on the mooring lines.
The station-keeping system, in general, holds the platforms in place. The system can be segmented into three main categories, catenary mooring, taut mooring, and tendons (TLPs).
The bottom-fixed structures are not economically feasible for depths above 50 m. In this case, floating concepts are an ideal solution [16]. Based also on geographical characteristics, the mooring systems represent an important parameter in the conceptualization of a floating project.
In a catenary mooring system, the line has a significant length lying on the seabed until reaching the anchor. The catenary mooring system restoring force is provided by the weight of the hanging mooring line; therefore, the lines are typically made of chains or steel rope or others to which clump weights are added.
The mooring line joins at the anchor at an angle in a taut mooring system without a segment lying on the seabed. The elasticity of the mooring lines provides the restoring force. These systems are often made of synthetic ropes. The tendons might be considered a particular case of the taut mooring system; however, tendons installed in TLPs are usually made of steel tubes that provide little axial flexibility. Therefore, the vertical motions are controlled.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the anchor system that is the end of the station-keeping system. Based on soil conditions and the type of mooring system, there are several anchor possibilities, gravity anchors, pile anchors, free-fall anchors, suction anchors, fluke anchors, plate anchors, and grouted rock anchors. Some of the previous floating structures have been supported by Hywind Scotland, WindFloat Atlantic, and Kincardine Scotland pre-commercial floating wind arrays [17,18,19].
Despite the high costs associated with floating offshore wind energy [20], adequate industry and government support could facilitate the economic feasibility [21]. Additionally, the floating technologies may benefit from an expansion that generates cost reduction. Moreover, FOWT addresses a sustainable business course target of 7.3 to “double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030” [22]. The inherent variability of renewable energies can be overpassed with a more compatible and broader system.
Several experts confirm the technical viability of FOWT [23,24,25,26,27]. However, the global feasibility of floating wind was not previously assessed. This study analyzes the drivers for and barriers to taking up FOWT (see Table 1). The case studies in the Atlantic coast and North Sea areas were chosen for three main reasons. First is the scope of the Arcwind project [28]. Second, commissioning the major projects (Hywind Scotland, WindFloat Atlantic, and Kincardine Scotland) could help new countries interested in exploring floating wind. Third, Spain, France, and Portugal have the largest number of floating concepts in development in countries on the European Atlantic coast. The Arcwind project is based on the development of three concepts in different locations. The concepts are provided by Saitec (Barge solution) [29], Centec (TLP solution) [16], and Esteyco (Spar solution) [30] (see Figure 2).

4. Floating Wind Power in Numbers

This section is focused on presenting the offshore wind market perspective up to 2050. Firstly, a short review of the process of the development of a wind farm provides the time scale. After, the market outlook is briefly described based on two main sources, the Global Wind Energy Council [31] and the WindEurope [32], who among other tasks issued periodically reports about the wind market.

4.1. Offshore Wind Farm Development Stages

WindEurope incorporated in their last report a narrative that explains the different steps and the timeline for developing a wind farm which is considered interesting to better understand the magnitudes that will later be exposed [33].
The different phases (see Figure 3) that need to be completed until producing energy from an offshore wind farm are:
  • Leasing: This comprises selecting wind farm locations, managing the environment, maritime spatial planning (MSP), and others. The leasing task is complete with adjudicating the right to explore the wind resource in a given space to a developer as part of a competitive process. Typically, it takes 2 years.
  • Consenting: This comprises the obtaining of construction and operation permits. The early site surveys and the front-end engineering design parallel the permitting process. The process takes 2 + 2 years to obtain the data and consent. Some projects can take significantly longer due to economic or environmental reasons. Obtaining the licenses to install and operate the project means the end of the consenting step.
  • Financial close: A detailed design and favorable financial investment are included in this step. Moreover, the power purchase agreement is mandatory in this phase. A time slot of 2 years from consent is required due to the competitive auctions. The possibility of failing at this stage is high; nevertheless, the impact on development rates is not considered.
  • Installation: This step includes offshore and onshore construction, grid connection, manufacture, and pre-assembly of components before installation. Almost 3 years are required to complete this phase. The wind farm is considered commissioned after starting with generating and transmitting power back to shore.
Figure 3. Floating farm development schedule. Adapted from [32].
Figure 3. Floating farm development schedule. Adapted from [32].
Jmse 10 00934 g003

4.2. Global Wind Energy Council

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) is the international association for the wind sector. GWEC represent 1500 institutions in more than 80 countries. The list of representatives includes developers, manufacturers, suppliers, research institutes, associations, electricity providers, and finance and insurance institutions.
The members are also all of the national wind industry trade associations from emerging and developed markets.
The first report of GWEC was launched in 2019 under the title Global Offshore Wind Report [34]. The document provides a comprehensive analysis of the market, and this issue indicates the relevance of offshore wind within the whole wind industry.
The study shows a total installation of 23 GW, representing a growth of 21% each year since 2013. During 2017 and 2018, more than 4 GW of new capacity was installed, growing up to 8% of the total new installations during both years. China was the largest offshore market in 2018 based on new constructions, followed by the UK and Germany.
The report also provides a market outlook. The experts expect double-digit growth based on current policies and expected tenders and auctions. The scenario could be realistic based on growth in China and other Asian markets and considering annual installations of 15–20 GW after 2025 to reach 165 GW of new installed capacity globally in 2030. This prognostic brings us a total installed capacity of 200 GW.
Regionally, around 80 GW are attributed to Europe by 2030, around 100 GW to Asia (China, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and India), and around 10 GW to the US (this is increased to 22 GW by the US Energy Information Administration).
Currently, the offshore wind market is dominated by fixed structures. Nevertheless, based on upcoming projects, the floating structure type will experiment with a significant growth rate during the incoming years [35].
Particularly, as seen in Figure 4, the prospect is to progress from virtually nothing to date to around 500 MW in 2023 and 12 GW+ by 2030. The total annual offshore wind capacity needs to increase from 28 GW/year in 2030 to 45 GW/year in 2050, distant from the 4.5 GW of power available in 2018 (see Figure 5).
Hopefully, the floating technology may contribute to keeping Europe’s prevalence in the offshore market for a longer period (and forever in terms of technology ownership), in opposition to the apparent trend of Asian markets, bound to lead the market worldwide in terms of installed power in about a decade or so. The previsions for the Asian markets indicate a total capacity of 100 GW by 2030 and 600 GW by 2050.
China will dominate the Asian market, with an installed capacity of 56 GW by 2030 and 382 GW by 2050. In the US, an installed capacity of 23 GW by 2030 and 164 GW by 2050 could be achieved.

4.3. Wind Europe

With a presence in more than 35 countries, WindEurope is an organization that actively promotes wind power in Europe. Of the over 400 members, there are wind turbine manufacturers, component suppliers, contractors, research institutes, renewables associations, electricity providers, developers, consultants, and finance and insurance companies.
WindEurope actively supports members’ requirements and needs to further their development, offering the sector the best networking and learning opportunities.
In November 2019, WindEurope issued the report called “Our energy, our future” that includes an outlook of the offshore wind market that is briefly described in this section [37].
To achieve carbon-neutral by 2050, the European Commission needs between 230 and 450 GW of offshore wind energy by 2050. The 2030 policy framework can facilitate 89 GW by 2030. However, the bases to enable higher installation levels need the national governments’ support.
The report has investigated most of the areas in northern Europe. The following map shows the area division considered by WindEurope for elaborating the study.
Areas considered in the Atlantic Arc Region are ES01, ES02, ES03, PT01, PT02, PT03, FR01, FR02, UK01, UK05, IE01, and IE02 (see Figure 6). It is very relevant that most of these areas are to be destined for floating wind given the depths available. Table 2 indicates the percentage of the areas with depths over 50 m, which is a good threshold for the reach of the bottom fixed wind. The areas are divided as well depending on the estimated LCOE. The report uses the following LCOE bands:
  • Below EUR 50/MWh in 2030—Very low LCOE.
  • Between EUR 50/MWh and EUR 65/MWh in 2030—Low LCOE.
  • Between EUR 65/MWh and EUR 80/MWh in 2030—Medium LCOE.
  • Over EUR 80/MWh in 2030—High LCOE.
Figure 6. European water subregions. Adapted from [32].
Figure 6. European water subregions. Adapted from [32].
Jmse 10 00934 g006
As it can be seen, there is a great portion in these areas that is going to be indicated for FOWT. To be precise, the sum is 77% of the offshore area.
Table 2. Floating share in each sector analyzed.
Table 2. Floating share in each sector analyzed.
Allocated (GW)
Offshore Area (km2)Portion of Area with d > 50 m
In the Atlantic Region, the WindEurope report estimates that the increase in consenting power, area, and installation rates need to be indicated in the following table. These rates will allow generating the 85 GW required to obtain the overall 450 GW in Europe for fulfilling the aim of being carbon-neutral for 2050.
Just under 2 GW (370 km2) per year is needed (see Table 3), and this rises to 3.9 GW (or 770 km2) annually through the 2030s. Therefore, to achieve the needed increase, the consenting rate requires double by 2025 and quadruple in the 2030s.
One of the most important conclusions of the WindEurope report is that floating wind will soon be as simple as other foundations available. WindEurope predicts full commercialization of the floating technologies. This organization estimates that the share of offshore floating wind will be between 100 and 150 GW of the 450 GW required by 2050.

4.4. European Commission: An EU Strategy to Harness the Potential of Offshore Renewable Energy for a Climate-Neutral Future

The EU has set ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector [38]. A reduction of 55% by 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050 is planned. The offshore wind sector (as low carbon technology) will be a key player in the European Union’s decarbonization goals. Since the first turbine was installed in the marine environment 25 years ago, offshore wind has provided energy for millions worldwide.
Today, offshore wind competes with fossil fuels. The power of seas, such as tidal currents, waves, floating photovoltaic, and algae biofuels, are technologies in development.
The European Union’s seas have a vast potential. The technological and physical potential is crucial to achieving the 2030 carbon emission targets and climate neutrality by 2050. The offshore wind industry could achieve this target only with the 3% of the European maritime space also satisfying the EU Biodiversity Strategy goals.
The EU target of 300 GW of offshore wind energy by 2050 needs a sector re-scaling in the next 30 years. This expansion requires multiplying the capacity by nearly 30 times and an investment estimated at up to EUR 800 billion. Nonetheless, some obstacles should be outgrown to ensure that all players can support this increase in deployment rate.
The EU strategy needs to address barriers and challenges and specific policy solutions adapted to the various stages of technology development and regional contexts. The Europe sea basins have the potential and conditions to develop offshore renewable energy.

5. Floating Wind Energy Market

One of the crucial aspects of floating wind energy development is the associated technology. The floating wind energy market comprises many stakeholders and investors, such as floating technology developers, utility companies, equipment manufacturers, contractors, and energy producers.
The construction of floating farms requires several industrial segments and companies in each sector. Noteworthy are the companies that produce floating platforms, offshore wind turbines, wind towers, cables, mooring systems, and installation companies.
Over the past years, the competitiveness of the technological market for floating wind components has increased [9]. Consequently, the increased competition has reduced manufacturers’ profit margins and sale values. The floating wind market expansion increases the technology sales (see Table 4).
Currently, seven major wind turbine manufacturers (Siemens, Senvion, Bard, Vestas, Bonus, Bordtank, and Wind World) stand out, which in 2018 operated 77% of the worldwide market [39]. The leading developers involved in floating foundations are presented in Table 4 and Appendix A and Appendix B.
As indicated in previous sections, the share of the Atlantic Region is almost 80% of the wind offshore areas. The water depths in the Atlantic region are ideal for floating wind and studies estimate that 85 GW could be deployed in the next decades. In line with the previous prognosis, some recent studies based on sustainable use of the maritime space considered that the Atlantic coast of Portugal, Spain, and France could host 32 GW of floating wind [6].
In the scope of the Arcwind project, more than 80 floating wind farm locations were determined and characterized (see Table 5). Of all of them, 6 locations were characterized to host floating platforms due to their suitability to host the Esteyco (Spar), Saitec (Semisubmersible), and Centec (TLP).

5.1. Research and Development Trends and the Future of the Floating Wind Industry

The floating wind platforms are designed for extreme sea conditions, allowing installation and maintenance time reduction. Establishing coastal facilities could solve the logistical constraints of the sector. The floating turbine construction and maintenance may be realized on land and transported to the farm. New designs, larger rotors, advanced materials, and taller towers suggest a new field for innovation. The new technological improvements focus on six areas: component weight and costs, transport and assembly, monitoring and control, turbine reliability, grid integration, and optimizing performance. The most ambitious research and development (R&D) plan is trying to develop a rotor blade longer than 200 m for a 50 MW offshore wind turbine, 2.5 times longer and 6 times more potent than turbines currently in operation [40,41]. The integration of floating concepts with other energy technologies (wave energy converters or solar panels) is currently in the R&D process.

5.2. The Port Activities in the Floating Wind Industry

Seaport services include handling goods at port terminals, towing services, piloting services, and industrial services. Moreover, the port can offer manufacturers test facilities, training centers, rental warehouses, offices, and operation centers [42].
The ports are currently adapting their business to support floating wind and other marine renewable energies. These entities adapt their infrastructure to stock the components, assemble the units, and stock the foundations providing cost reduction and efficiency [43].
Several studies analyzed the types of ports and the associated production process [44]. The type of port used to establish floating wind activities will depend on the installation strategy, costs, the distance from the manufacturing centers, and the distance to the wind farm [45].
The seaport can play a crucial role in the offshore wind production process. Managing all stages at the local and temporal levels is essential for the activity’s profitability. The primary function associated with the port is the transportation of various equipment from land to the sea. However, some ports could assume the role of manufacturing and assembly, which raises this activity’s potential in these entities.

5.3. The Environmental Considerations

A stable wind resource is essential for offshore wind projects. Wind variability is a significant factor. A steadier wind can provide a more constant energy output. These conditions are present on the European Atlantic coast.
Suitable offshore sites near populated centers mean new opportunities. The offshore farms near the final consumer reduce transmission costs and energy losses. At the same time, the farm’s visibility from the shore needs to be considered. Moreover, the weather patterns are essential to avoid possible coastal natural disasters. The frequency of these events can significantly impact the project cost and electricity cost—these aspects need to be considered when searching for suitable locations. One of the primary purposes of the Arcwind project was to identify appropriate areas from a sustainable point of view. The Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) phenomenon is at a maximum in the site selection of floating wind farms.

5.4. Social Aspects

The social aspects of floating energy projects can be the deciding factor in the success of a project. A negative public attitude towards floating wind farms can delay or cancel a project. Some projects in the EU illustrate the importance of public acceptance. The NIMBY opposition against wind turbine farms is related to the turbines’ aesthetics and any possible pollution [46]. Factors such as the culture, economy, political stance, location, and coast use determine the public attitude [47]. The opposition against wind farms comes from people linked to the ocean/coast jobs. Local community members fear the project will damage the environment, disrupt commercial activity, and lower property prices. An excellent opportunity to achieve a floating project implementation is guaranteeing the involvement of the local public and social entities in the process of wind farm acceptance.

5.5. Legal Aspects

Legal aspects are one of the biggest concerns when it comes to the development of the floating wind industry. Europe has had around 5 years of commercial experience in floating wind projects. So far, several commercial leases at the Atlantic Coast have been submitted by energy suppliers to the corresponding organizations (national and regional). Moreover, stakeholders can pressure the project by filing lawsuits. The outcome of these lawsuits is often uncertain and can heavily delay projects and run up costs. Another main concern during the permitting is the public resistance because of visual impact. The visual effect of an offshore installation is taken into account during the permitting process.
The permitting process for an offshore wind farm in European waters is complicated due to the duplicity of documents at the national and regional levels.
Furthermore, the rules are not specific to the floating sector, which means that laws that are not specific need to be fulfilled. This type of project requires a clear regulatory framework between the regulatory bodies to facilitate the fast implementation for the energy developers.

5.6. Technological Aspects

The technological environment is crucial to benefit from the opportunities of the floating wind market. Several obstacles related to floating turbine technology can emerge.
Some technical challenges are inherent to renewable energy solutions. The existing energy infrastructure decides how easily energy from offshore turbines can be integrated into the grid, and the lack of infrastructure dramatically increases the cost. The supply chain and the manufacturing environment on the European coast are other technical factors to consider.

5.7. Floating Offshore Wind Barriers for Commercialization

Most barriers are to be solved by the policymakers who need to realize the huge opportunities that the FOWT represent, in terms of job creation, environmental commitments, and Europe’s future. All available reports concur in the following barriers for FOWT:
Maritime Spatial Planning: There is a need to increase the rate of site allocation and development for achieving, at least in Europe, the environmental commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement. This is in hands of the policymakers that need to move quickly to put in motion the long process required for a wind farm development.
Environmental Impact: Although the comparison with the oil and gas business is clear, it is required to ensure that focusing the energy transition on the offshore wind industry is the right decision.
Multiple Use: The future of offshore wind goes towards the sharing of the sea between users.
Expand the grid offshore and onshore: The electricity grid infrastructure in Europe needs to be able to absorb the power foreseen to be installed. This will require, most likely, the collaboration between countries, which requires a legal framework that still needs to be constructed.
Stable Rates: The policymakers need to stabilize the energy rates for allowing the project to capture investments. This will increase the supply chain that will feel more comfortable investing in the necessary upgrading of vessels, ports, and onshore facilities that could be amortized in longer periods.
Mobilizing investments: WindEurope, in the frame of Europe’s objective for 2050, estimates that CAPEX needs to be threefold for offshore wind farms and transmission grids. Their estimate requires to go from EUR 6 bn per year in 2020, to more than EUR 21 bn per year in 2025. In 2030, the investments will need to be around EUR 45 bn. In total, this means spending around 10% of the total infrastructure budget across Europe, on offshore wind.
Technology Readiness: The TRL achieved by different concepts such as Equinor’s spar, Ideol’s barge, or PPI’s semisubmersible, encourage the experts to believe that this will not be a drawback for the FOW future. However, for other concepts, there is still a long way to walk, but the de-risking process shall be faster every day.
Industrialization: The designers need to intensify their efforts for thinking about the ways to allow an industrial process that allows the cost competitiveness of offshore wind energy. The step from demonstrator or pre-series to full commercialization needs to be taken. Thinking about these fabrication, transport, and installation procedures will allow the governments to know how to upgrade the harbor facilities.
Scalability: The turbine sizes are in continuous growth, and it is usually overtaking the foundation designs. The recent GE 12 MW turbine is a tremendous challenge for the foundation designers. In light of the speed in which these new turbines have reached the market, it is expected that the exigencies of the floaters will be very demanding in the future.
High Levelized Cost of Energy: In recent years, significant cost reductions in the onshore and bottom fixed offshore wind sectors were witnessed. FOW is anticipated to follow a similar downward trend with a cost decrease of 38–50% leading to 2050, following the suggestions of IEA experts. There are several other factors which may also lead to further cost reductions.
One of the main advantages of FOW is the positioning in areas with higher average wind speeds, allowing to harness the best possible wind resources without depth constraints. The capacity factor can thus be improved and lead to increased electricity generation. With higher capacity factors, the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) will be reduced.
Technology that allows a cost-effective exchange of large turbine components offshore when floating foundation structures are moving due to wave motion. The maintenance of turbines in FOWT is a non-solved issue, the players in the industry are demanding cost-effective solutions for the large correctives of the turbines in the FOW.
For spars, whose final configuration is too deep to be taken into the harbor, this would imply such prohibitive costs that it simply cannot be considered a valid option for future large commercial floating farms. Proof of this is the contest of ideas to solve this problem proposed in 2017 by Equinor. This initiative has, however, failed to provide any concept promising and ready enough to be field-tested and demonstrated, and as of today Equinor openly admits that LCM interventions for their SPAR floating wind turbines are an issue yet to be solved.
With semisubmersibles, whose draught is much smaller, the full de-installation and reinstallation of complete units might be considered a viable alternative for a commercial wind farm. They would be towed to the harbor to use onshore cranes for Large Corrective Operations. Even so, the cost of the mooring and mooring large structures, disconnecting and reconnecting the dynamic riser power cables, decommissioning and recommissioning the turbine and electrical systems are very high, and required the mobilization of multiple specialized vessels and need very long operative weather windows leading to prolonged unproductive periods.
In the same framework as the previous, the industry is looking for cost-effective solutions for maintaining floating offshore foundations due to the capability of towing the structure to the port.
Cost-effective manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of the large volume of mooring lines and anchors in floating wind farms. Mooring systems and their installations are important cost contributors, particularly given the large volume of mooring lines and anchors that must be installed.
Cost-effective monitoring and inspection of a large number of mooring lines, cables, and foundation structures. Current solutions are based on Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) or divers, feasible solutions inherited from the oil and gas industry due to the small number of lines.
Despite all the challenges mentioned above, the good performance of the FOWT must be remembered. FOW could cement Europe’s leadership in renewables globally [33].

6. Discussion and Conclusions

The energy system plays an essential role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Europe is one of the leaders in renewable energy globally and has set the very ambitious goal of 40% renewables by 2030. The vast offshore wind resources off the Atlantic coast are being eyed as the potential next renewable energy source for the European Union. This opens the question of the barriers and opportunities for the floating wind market. Therefore, the social, technological, environmental, and legal aspects relevant to floating offshore wind energy were investigated. The document demonstrates that the offshore environment offers excellent opportunities for floating concepts.
Floating wind energy heavily depends on political support, especially in the beginning. The support of the national governments is highly unclear under some financial uncertainty. However, the European Union is actively engaged in realizing offshore wind projects through initiatives such as the Interreg and H2020 funds. Furthermore, the EU has a vast economy to support such projects and is attractive to developers because of its high national electricity prices. The technological environment in the EU can facilitate development. The European industry can support the growth of this new technology, and the jobs related to manufacturing are available locally. A renewable energy mix with floating wind energy seems logical. The biggest challenge is the highly complex regulatory environment that can significantly increase costs and slow down projects. Finally, local opposition against such projects is not uncommon in the EU and can increase financial uncertainty.
In the future, it will be interesting to learn more from the pre-commercial floating projects currently commissioned in Europe and the UK. Overall, the opportunities for a floating wind market in Europe seem bright, and the present threats are deemed surmountable.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, J.S. and J.N.; formal analysis, J.S. and J.N.; writing—original draft preparation, J.S., J.N. and H.D.; writing—review and editing, C.G.S.; project administration, C.G.S. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This work was conducted within the ARCWIND project—Adaptation and implementation of floating wind energy conversion technology for the Atlantic region (, accessed on 1 June 2022), which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme under contract EAPA 344/2016. This work contributes to the Strategic Research Plan of the Centre for Marine Technology and Ocean Engineering (CENTEC), which is financed by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia—FCT) under contract UIDB/UIDP/00134/2020.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A. Asian Floating Wind Projects

ProjectCountryPipeline StatusCODCapacity (MW)Water Depth (m)DeveloperTurbine Rating (MW)Substructure
Fukushima floating offshore wind farm phase 1JapanInstalled20132120Marubeni
Fukushima floating offshore wind farm phase 2JapanInstalled20155120Marubeni
Kitakyusu (NEDO)JapanUnder construction2019370NEDO—Ideol3Semisubmersible
Hitachi ZosenJapanPermitting2024400-Equino—
UlsanSouth KoreaFinancial close20190.7515Consortium0.75Semisubmersible
Donghae KNOCSouth KoreaPlanning2027--Equinor—KNOC--
Ulsan shellSouth KoreaPlanning2027200-Shell—Hexicon-Semisubmersible
Ulsan MacquaireSouth KoreaPlanning2027200-Macquaire--
Ulsan SKSouth KoreaPlanning2027200-SK—E&S--
Ulsan KFSouth KoreaPlanning2027200-KF Wind—PPI-Semisubmersible
Floatinf W1NTaiwanPlanning2025500-Eolfi—Cobra--

Appendix B. American Floating Wind Projects

CODCapacity (MW)Water Depth (m)DeveloperTurbine Rating (MW)Substructure
Castle WindUSAPlanning20271000900EnBW8Semisubmersible
Redwood coastUSAPlanning2025150550EDPR—PPI8Semisubmersible
Aqua Ventus IUSAPlanning202212100University of Maine6Semisubmersible
Oahu NorthUSAPlanning2027400850AW Wind6Semisubmersible
Oahu SouthUSAPlanning2027400600AW Wind6Semisubmersible
Progression WindUSAPlanning2027400650Progression Wind6Semisubmersible


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Figure 1. Floating foundations stability triangle.
Figure 1. Floating foundations stability triangle.
Jmse 10 00934 g001
Figure 2. Floating wind platforms involved in the Arcwind project. (a) SATH® platform concept (Semisub), (b) TELWIND® platform concept (Spar), and (c) CENTEC-TLP platform concept (TLP).
Figure 2. Floating wind platforms involved in the Arcwind project. (a) SATH® platform concept (Semisub), (b) TELWIND® platform concept (Spar), and (c) CENTEC-TLP platform concept (TLP).
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Figure 4. Floating offshore wind market outlook. Adapted from [34].
Figure 4. Floating offshore wind market outlook. Adapted from [34].
Jmse 10 00934 g004
Figure 5. Annual offshore wind capacity, historical data, and projections. Adapted from [36].
Figure 5. Annual offshore wind capacity, historical data, and projections. Adapted from [36].
Jmse 10 00934 g005
Table 1. Main opportunities and barriers of floating foundations.
Table 1. Main opportunities and barriers of floating foundations.
SemisubmersibleHigh technology readiness levels (TRLs)Internal forces dependent on geometries
Expensive ballast system
High competition between developers
Heavy structure
Large dimensions for future 15 MW+ turbines
Global market position
Several turbines integration in a foundation
Easy geometries
Full system easy transportation
Depth independence
Simple mooring system
BargeLow-cost productionNo global market position
Easy geometriesLaunching technique
Depth independenceHeavy structure
Simple mooring systemLarge dimensions for future 15 MW+ turbines
Motion reduction
Flat without interspaces
Full system easy transportation
Conventional SparHigh TRLFinal assembly in the position
No global market position
Construction complexity
Easy mass production with tower synergies
Material usage
Simple mooring system
TLPLow-cost production
Light structure
Not soil dependent for anchor system
Suitable for extreme sea states
Excellent stability
Full system easy transportation
Expensive mooring system
Redundant moorings
No global market positions
Suitable intermediate depths
Table 3. Required installation rates in the Atlantic region.
Table 3. Required installation rates in the Atlantic region.
Average Rate
Installed GW1.
Consented GW1.
Consented km2370680770750630620
Table 4. Europe floating wind projects.
Table 4. Europe floating wind projects.
CODCapacity (MW)Water Depth (m)DeveloperTurbine
Rating (MW)
Eolink 2/10 scale
Floatgen projectFranceInstalled2018233Ideol2Barge
Groix Belle IlleFranceApproved20212462Eolfi6Semisubmersible
Provence Grand LargeFranceApproved20212430EDF8Tension Leg Platform
Les Eoliennes Flotant du Golfe du LionFranceApproved20212471Engie, EDPR, Caisse de Depots6Semisubmersible
Schwimmendes Offshore Fundament SOF Pilot
GermanyFinancial close20222.337GICON2.3Tension Leg Platform
Hywind DemoNorwayInstalled20092.3220Unitech offshore2.3Spar
NorwayFinancial close20193.6200Innogy, Shell, Stiesdal3.6Semisubmersible
Hywind TampenNorwayPermitting202288110Equinor8Spar
NOAKANorwayPlanning2023-130Equinor. Aker, BP--
Windfloat AtlanticPortugalFinancial close20192550Windplus8Semisubmersible
DemoSath—BimepSpainApproved2020268Saitec offshore technologies-Semisubmersible
X1 Wind
SpainApproved2021-62X1 wind-Tension Leg Platform
Power Plant—Plocan
SpainApproved2021-62FPP8Hybrid wave power semisubmersible
Hwind Scotland
Pilot Park
Dounreay TriUKApproved20211076Hexicon5Semisubmersible
Offshore wind farm—Phase 1
Offshore wind farm—Phase 2
UKUnder construction20205062Cobra9.5Semisubmersible
Table 5. Main floating wind farms proposed in the scope of the Arcwind project.
Table 5. Main floating wind farms proposed in the scope of the Arcwind project.
CountryLocationCoordinates (WGS84)Wind Farm Capacity (MW)TurbinesArea (km2)Platform
FranceLannion49.2−3.64704762Telwind 1
SpainGran Canaria27.8−15.31201225.37
PortugalFigueira da Foz40.2−9.470070110Sath 2
SpainRibadeo44−7.388088405C-TLP 3
1 Esteyco Spar; 2 Saitec Semisubmersible; 3 Centec TLP.
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Díaz, H.; Serna, J.; Nieto, J.; Guedes Soares, C. Market Needs, Opportunities and Barriers for the Floating Wind Industry. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2022, 10, 934.

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Díaz H, Serna J, Nieto J, Guedes Soares C. Market Needs, Opportunities and Barriers for the Floating Wind Industry. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. 2022; 10(7):934.

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Díaz, Hugo, José Serna, Javier Nieto, and C. Guedes Soares. 2022. "Market Needs, Opportunities and Barriers for the Floating Wind Industry" Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 10, no. 7: 934.

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