Moving towards the next generation of floating wind power, the government should encourage the development of diverse technologies.

The future cornerstone of Taiwan's energy lies offshore! This year, Taiwan has seen the formal completion of three offshore wind farms, and the initial phase of the development of the third stage of offshore wind power has successfully concluded its bidding process, marking a significant dual milestone. Taiwan's sole domestic developer, Taiya Renewable Energy(TRE), not only secured the rights for the initial phase but also envisions venturing into deep-sea regions with water depths exceeding 70 meters after 2024, focusing on the extensive cultivation of floating wind power technology. They also call upon the government to encourage the establishment of diverse technologies in Taiwan.

As a maritime nation, Taiwan holds the promise of future renewable energy sources offshore!" Richard Liu, the General Manager of TRE, pointed out that Taiwan's offshore wind power development has gradually entered the harvest phase. In addition to overcoming the impact of the pandemic on maritime engineering, wind farms are progressively nearing completion, and the first round of block development bidding has also been successfully concluded.

As Taiwan's wind farms gradually expand, apart from the shallower coastal areas, future offshore wind power operators will also face the challenge of developing deep-sea regions with water depths exceeding 70 meters. Fixed methods previously used will become impractical, necessitating the reliance on floating technologies to overcome the water depth limitations. Liu also disclosed that TRE is currently actively involved in cultivating this technology.

Floating wind farms can overcome future water depth limitations

Liu explained how floating wind farms overcome water depth limitations. He stated that fixed wind turbines are anchored to the seabed, similar to structures in construction, to support the turbines above the sea. In contrast, floating wind turbines are supported by buoyant platforms that float on the sea's surface like a stable vessel. The bottom of these platforms is then anchored to the seabed using mooring systems and cables.

Liu also elaborated on the diversity of platform designs to accommodate varying marine and weather conditions. Designers employ different stability and mooring techniques to adapt to different oceanic conditions and turbine sizes. The design of these floating platforms represents each company's unique expertise. He emphasized that there are currently a wide range of designs worldwide, ranging from 20 to over 80 different types, with 5 to 6 common ones. The technology that TRE is actively developing in Taiwan is also quite distinctive in the local context.

To support the development of new technologies, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced the "Offshore Wind Floating Demonstrator Program" last year. It is expected to finalize specific measures this year, allowing developers interested in floating technology to have the opportunity to test advanced technologies in Taiwanese waters.

Liu emphasized the importance of this program in providing national permission-based support for the emerging floating technology. As the state owns the offshore areas, both testing technology and constructing wind farms require permits. The demonstrator projects enable companies to conduct preliminary testing of cutting-edge technologies in Taiwanese waters on a small scale, with flexibility and grid connection, to assess their resilience to sea conditions and their impact on power generation efficiency. This sets the foundation for large-scale development in the subsequent phases.

It is challenging for demonstration projects to facilitate the entry of various international technologies into Taiwan

However, currently, the demonstration projects are limited to only three developers. Liu g also urges the government to consider not restricting the number of participants, allowing a more diverse range of international technologies to enter Taiwan. This approach would enable the government to compare and test which technologies are best suited for the challenging Taiwanese waters.

He emphasized that there are already over three types of floating platforms commonly used internationally, and none of them have been tested in Taiwanese waters. Most of these platform technologies are patented, and allowing multiple participants makes it possible to conduct diverse testing. This, in turn, ensures that future commercial development opportunities are not concentrated around a single patent, achieving a risk diversification effect.

Regarding the government's plan to support floating demonstration wind farms through feed-in tariffs, is there a concern that a large number of participants will impact government expenditures? Liu pointed out that the limit for individual demonstration wind farms is set at 12 floating platforms, allowing developers to test the matrix's impact on power generation efficiency. However, the cost of floating technology remains quite high, and even with feed-in tariffs, it can still be a loss-making endeavor. Not all developers necessarily need to test a matrix. Given the current conditions in the Taiwan Strait, he believes that it's essential to initially test the resilience and efficiency of the floating platforms.

He suggested that the government could consider relaxing the current restrictions on the number of participants and support limits while keeping the subsidy scale unchanged. This would increase the overall flexibility of the demonstration project system, allowing for a diverse range of tests with the same resource allocation.

Small-scale, diversified testing is a best practice in advanced methodologies

Liu also mentioned that the approach of small-scale, diversified testing of technologies aligns with the trajectories of advanced floating wind power nations such as the UK and Japan. He cited examples like Japan's Fukushima Hope Project, which involves three different types of floating platforms. Similarly, the UK and Norway have focused on testing different technologies with a limited number of platforms, gradually progressing to larger-scale wind farms once they have established conditions like wind and wave patterns and enriched domestic data. Currently, the largest wind farms set up consist of around five platforms.

Regarding his optimism about floating wind power, Liu unequivocally stated, "Floating is the future hope of offshore wind power." He emphasized that global energy prices are soaring, making offshore wind power Taiwan's best hedge against inflation. If Taiwan can master floating technology, it will be better positioned to ensure future development opportunities remain unaffected by global geopolitical changes and make significant strides toward achieving the 13GW overall wind power decarbonization target by 2030.

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