Government and industry officials from Scotland, Norway and the UAE gathered in Aberdeen this week to announce a breakthrough in renewable energy. Three countries and a city synonymous with the oil and gas industry. Thanks to their expertise in fossil fuels, the world’s first commercial-scale floating wind park is now operational.
Hywind Scotland applies know-how from the development of deep offshore oil and gas rigs to offshore wind power technology. Far from the Scottish coastline, five wind turbines, each with a capacity of six megawatts, are now supplying electricity to an estimated 20,000 households.
To put the scale of these massive machines into perspective, the rotor blade of one turbine is more than twice the wingspan of an Airbus A380.
Viable in water depths of up to 800 metres, floating wind technology has the potential to unlock a number of new markets around the world for offshore wind energy development, especially in places where the coastal shelf is too deep to support traditional “fixed-bottom” offshore wind turbines standing on the seabed.
Crucially, the investment of Masdar in Hywind Scotland, positions the UAE at the forefront of this technology. Masdar is wholly owned by Mubadala Investment Company.
The inauguration of Hywind Scotland wasn’t the only news event in Aberdeen recently. Masdar and its partners at Statoil will connect the wind park to an advanced lithium battery, “Batwind”, with a storage capacity of 1 megawatt-hour. That’s more charge than two million smartphones.
By helping to mitigate the intermittency of renewable energy, a persistent obstacle for developers, the wider industry impact of Batwind could be as dramatic as its name. Once again, through the investment of Masdar, the UAE is placed at the cutting-edge of electricity storage technology.
Hywind Scotland is Masdar’s second project with Statoil after the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm, a fixed-bottom wind park sited off the coast of eastern England. Comprising 67 wind turbines, each one as big as those now floating off the coast of Aberdeenshire, Dudgeon will be officially unveiled next month.
Combined with Masdar’s investment in London Array, still the world’s largest offshore wind farm in operation, Hywind Scotland and Dudgeon will bring the total installed capacity of the UK-based wind energy projects in which Masdar is an investor to more than 1GW.
That is an impressive landmark for the UAE. It is also further evidence of the sound business strategy behind the UAE’s wider commitment to renewables: to commercialise advanced clean technologies by deploying them at scale.
Hywind Scotland, the world’s first commercial-scale floating wind park, and Batwind also illustrate the importance of bold policymaking. Scotland is the first country to offer a specific scheme to support the development of floating wind technology.
Mutually rewarding partnerships between government and the private sector have been a feature of the oil and gas sector for decades. The unveiling of Hywind Scotland, to be followed by Batwind next year, show how they are increasingly bearing fruit for the renewable energy sector too.
Khaled Abdulla Al Qubaisi is Chief Executive Officer of the Aerospace, Renewables and Information Communications Technology platform at Mubadala Investment Company