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Credits: Ideol / V. Joncheray

In the field of floating wind power, innovation is essential to support its deployment. Innovation also helps reduce technical and industrial challenges.

Research and Development (R&D) touches all areas of floating wind power. For instance, R&D can be used to improve the stability of floaters.

EDF, for example, is studying several technologies through a wind turbine modeling tool to identify various alternatives under unfavorable conditions for floater stability. Within EDF’s R&D, a calculation chain called “DIEGO” has been developed. This chain verifies system stability (considering the type of floater, the turbine weight, etc.), the system’s response to waves, its long-term resistance, and weather conditions. This allows EDF to compare different floaters.

R&D also helps identify and limit the environmental impact of floating wind power. For instance, it helps minimize impacts on seabeds and birds. More specifically, improving floaters helps prevent biofouling, which occurs when a significant layer of living organisms forms on the floater’s surface, threatening its stability. R&D enables a better understanding of species, as evidenced by an environmental impact study program launched by EDF in 2021. The goal of this program is to determine the impact of floating wind turbines on migratory birds to better protect them, for example, through detection systems or stopping the turbines.

It is also important to consider the life cycle analysis of wind turbines, particularly their recycling.

R&D addresses challenges related to the maintenance of floating wind turbines. It helps tackle difficulties in replacing large components far from the coast. Maintenance operations are costly and challenging due to turbine movements, water depth, and the distance of turbines from the coast.

Another challenge for R&D is safety. The logistics and safety of maintenance personnel are complex, as these operations depend on distances and weather. The safe transfer of teams onto floating structures is also a concern. For example, EDF is working on a surveillance system on ships to assist decision-making during the transfer of teams to floating wind turbines.

Another aspect of maintenance is the possibility of disconnecting turbines from the electrical system to bring them ashore. This operation facilitates working conditions but is costly, time-consuming, and technically complex.

The transfer of energy produced by floating wind turbines to the terrestrial grid is also a significant issue. This process requires developed connections and infrastructure, which R&D helps address. Connection is essential for the performance of floating wind farms, but it is challenging due to the long distances involved, as turbines are located far from the coast and in deep waters.

For connecting floating wind turbines, submarine cables must be installed. These cables are in motion due to the movements of the floater and the sea. R&D must ensure these cables do not suffer early fatigue and that they remain durable throughout the lifespan of a wind farm. R&D also focuses on cable distance and maintenance to reduce interventions in floating wind farms.

Furthermore, reducing the cost of floating wind power requires the ability to transport large amounts of energy over long distances.

Another research area concerns direct current. The farther a wind farm is from the coast, the more it will need to rely on direct current technologies (current where electrons flow in the same direction). Thus, interconnected direct current networks must be designed to evacuate energy.

France has supported innovation in this field through the “Programme des Investissements d’Avenir”. This initiative was confirmed under the France 2030 plan, specifically the “Advanced Technologies of Energy Systems” acceleration strategy linked to France 2030, aiming to support innovation.

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