BRINGING BLUE ENERGY TO SMART CITIES
How do we produce and deliver energy to the smart cities of the future, or even the growing mega cities of the world? Floating energy production facilities may be part of the solution.
By 2040 global energy consumption will be increased by 25 per cent. While as many as 1,1 billion already lack access to electricity today. Thus the opportunity is vast. Demand is increasing, and so is the international pressure for decarbonization. In about 20 years renewable energy could account for 35-60 per cent of the global energy production.
In the second of a series of expert workshops on floating cities, the topic of floating energy production was discussed. The workshops, facilitated by Equinor and Xynteo, bring together experts, visionaries, futurists and relevant companies from all over the world.
A wide range of pioneering companies are looking into different solutions on how to put to life the energy opportunity of the coming decades. Many of the initiatives are based on energy production at sea. There have been pilot projects using kites attached to generators utilizing high altitude wind. Other projects generate power from ocean thermal energy. Even huge batteries of floating solar cells are being tested.
Chris McConville, General Manager in Floating Power Plant, was the first speaker of the workshop. The clean-tech company believes the best solution in floating power production is a hybrid one – utilizing both waves and wind to generate electricity.
— Combining wave and wind turbines gives a smoother electric output, as you don’t always have wind and waves simultaneously, McConville says. Floating Power Plant designs, develops and provides a floating patented platform for wind and wave energy. So far it is the only offshore-proven combined floating wind and wave device to have delivered power to the grid.
— As fixed offshore wind turbines are becoming cost competitive, floating offshore wind is seen as the next natural step to exploit greater resource and deep-water markets.
— The EU has a specific focus on «Blue growth» which establishes a number of policies and directives. As the sea space is actually limited there is also a focus on multiuse and coexistence, McConville says. There are already plans for building a man-made island on the Dogger Banks in the North Sea. The ambition here is to build wind power hubs with central grid connection. This also gives the opportunity to build fisheries landing, hydrogen production facilities or floating shipping terminals.
Floating Power Plant is looking into several options in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and other markets.
The decarbonizing problem
The global need for decarbonizing energy production requires a major shift in production methods.
Floating nuclear power might be part of that solution according to Eric Ingersoll, present at the workshop.
—While current nuclear facilities are expensive to build, have a fixed location, and very often need governmental guarantee, floating nuclear power plants can be built effectively on shipyards. The asset can be moved and it is easier financed by commercial initiatives, he says. Even the security standard is higher on a floating rig, he claims.
Eric Ingersoll is a Co-founder of Energy Options Network (EON), a non-profit consultancy group created to increase the portfolio of zero-carbon energy options, available to accelerate global decarbonization of current and future conventional energy systems.
Equinor is also deeply invested in floating energy production. The company runs Hywind, a large Floating offshore wind turbine project off the coast of Scotland. Hywind is expected to generate enough electricity to supply 20,000 households.
The independent research organization SINTEF is one of the workshop participants.
– SINTEF is very interested in the concept of floating energy-production, chief scientist John Tande in SINTEF says.
– SINTEF has been working with Equinor on the Hywind project for years. Our ocean lab was used for testing the concept in 2004, and we co-own a patent on the control system keeping floating turbines like Hywind stable during strong wind scenarios. Floating wind turbines are also very relevant as a way to electrify oil and gas rigs.
In the future we can imagine floating wind farms surrounding floating smart cities. This can be in combination with other renewable energy production, hydrogen or energy storage.
— We have seen the importance of several different elements coming together with the unifying vision of Floating Cities in our opening workshop sessions. We also know partnerships will be key. That is why we have reached out to such a broad external network on the topic, says Margaret Mistry from Equinor’s Innovation Team.
Companies like Kongsberg Digital, Yara, DNV GL, MIT, IBM, SINTEF, Oslo Business Region, ONS, Katapult Ocean, COWI are among the participants in this exploration phase.
— The last workshop clearly showed the diversity of perspectives on floating energy sources and raised issues around the co-existence of different users of the ocean space, she says.
Article delivered in collaboration with Björn Audunn Blöndal / PRESSWORKS
Cover picture: FLOATING POWER PLANT