The Canary Islands are emerging as an important test centre for floating wind, and potentially for its commercial application, as the islands transition to clean energy
The Canary Islands are emerging as an important centre for testing floating offshore wind technology that is at the pre-commercial stage, and potentially for the commercial application of floating wind.
As highlighted by OWJ earlier this month, energy major Equinor is hoping to invest around €860M (US$968M) to build a floating offshore windfarm in the Canary Islands, but is far from being the only energy company, developer or company with floating wind technology that is keen to work with the authorities in the region, as the Canary Islands Regional Government Vice-Minister of Industry, Energy and Commerce, Gonzalo Piernavieja, told OWJ in an exclusive interview.
Mr Piernavieja said Equinor is only one of a number of companies that has expressed an interest in developing commercial-scale floating windfarms in the waters of the Canary Islands. Others are keen to use the waters off the islands to demonstrate pre-commercial technology.
Mr Piernavieja told OWJ that the regional government has identified wind as a source of clean power that can help meet its growing demand for energy. It has set ambitious goals for clean energy, including securing 45% of its energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2025. It has included offshore wind in this goal and hopes to have at least 300 MW of offshore wind operational by 2025.
Making greater use of renewables will reduce the Canary Island’s dependence on imported fuel and help it reduce CO2 emissions. Mr Piernavieja said onshore wind would also play a role in the transition to renewables, but it would be more challenging to develop on a large scale. This is because of restrictions on where turbines can be installed because of potential interference with aviation and concerns about the visual impact of onshore turbines. In contrast, he explained, the deep water around the Canary Islands is ideal for floating offshore wind and the wind resource there is excellent.
“We need to go offshore,” said Mr Piernavieja, “but before we can do so and before any commercial-scale development by Equinor or anyone else takes place, we need to establish a regulatory framework for offshore wind.”
Mr Piernavieja explained that a working group has been established that will work with Spain’s central government to address regulatory issues, but that working group has yet to meet for the first time. When it does meet, the working group will examine a number of areas that have been identified as being suited for developing floating wind: these are to the southeast of the island of Gran Canaria, an area between Fuerteventura and Lanzarote and offshore the island of Tenerife.
“What we need is to establish a process similar to the one that enabled the development of Hywind Scotland,” he said. “Equinor has been talking to us for a couple of years about building its project, but nothing can be authorised until we have a regulatory process in place. For the time being there is no environmental impact assessment or anything like that. They obviously have the technology, which they have proved with Hywind Scotland, but there are others who would also like to develop commercial floating windfarms here too.”
Once a regulatory process has been established – a process Mr Piernavieja said could take 2-3 years – it is possible that a floating windfarm might be built by the mid-2020s, but the authorities in the region also want to develop storage technology – such as pumped storage – in parallel with floating offshore wind and other forms of renewable energy. There is also an urgent need to reinforce the electricity grid and enhance grid connection between the islands, he explained.
In parallel with developing commercial-scale floating wind, said Mr Piernavieja, the Canary Islands are already ‘open’ for developing small-scale pre-commercial technologies. He highlighted the fact that the prototype of Gamesa’s G128-5.0 MW offshore wind turbine was installed in the Canary Islands during the first half of 2013, and formally commissioned in July that year.
Since then, he said, the Canary Islands has become home to Spain’s first truly offshore wind turbine, with a 5-MW unit commissioned earlier this year at the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (known as PLOCAN). Mounted on an innovative self-installing foundation with a concrete base and ‘telescopic’ tower, it was developed by Esteyco under the Elican project, which secured funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.
X1 Wind’s innovative PivotBuoy single-point mooring system is also to be tested at PLOCAN, by a consortium of nine partners, led by X1 Wind, and more recently, the company behind an innovative floating wind and wave power unit signed a memorandum of understanding with PLOCAN to test a commercial-scale unit. Floating Power Plant said that apart from deploying a commercial-scale version of the hybrid floating wind and wave energy device at PLOCAN, it will also establish an R&D subsidiary in Gran Canaria. Another floating wind concept to be tested at PLOCAN is the W2Power multi-turbine platform developed by EnerOcean and Ghenova, which has two 6-MW turbines.