Offshore wind turbine adapts to wind direction like a weathervane

X1 Wind Floating Offshore Wind Platform
In 2023, a scaled-down 1:3 prototype of X1 Wind's floating platform was deployed at the PLOCAN test site in the Canary Islands. Images courtesy X1 Wind

The development of offshore wind farms is gaining momentum with the introduction of the NextFloat+ Project, an initiative aimed at streamlining the installation and operation of wind turbines at sea. This project, funded by a €13.4 million (US$14.4 million) grant from the European Commission, is set to be tested in the Mediterranean.

Challenges and advantages of offshore wind farms

Offshore wind farms offer numerous advantages, such as steady sea breezes and predictable wind patterns, which are more reliable than those on land. Additionally, the absence of land acquisition issues makes them an attractive option. However, the engineering challenges involved in setting up these turbines at sea can be significant. The turbines must be robust to withstand harsh marine conditions, and their installation often requires heavy and expensive mooring systems.

The NextFloat+ solution

NextFloat+ addresses these challenges through innovative design and engineering. Led by Barcelona-based X1 Wind, in collaboration with Technip Energies and NextFloat Plus SAS, the consortium aims to build a prototype 6-MW wind station named X90. This prototype features a triangular floating platform with a single turbine, assembled onshore and then towed to the installation site.

Key features of the X90 platform

  • Single Point Mooring (SPM) and Tension Leg Platform (TLP): The X90 platform employs an SPM and TLP system that negates the need for special heavy equipment. The triangular structure floats on the surface, anchored by three cables connected to a seabed mooring at depths over 1,600 ft (488 m). The cables are tensioned to keep the platform stable.
X1 Wind Floating Offshore Wind Platform Pivot Buoy
Watch how the NextFloat+ platform pivots downwind like a weathervane, optimizing wind capture efficiency.
  • Weathervane design: Unlike conventional turbines that face into the wind and require robust masts to handle strain, the X90’s rotor is fixed on the platform, which rotates to align with the wind direction. The turbine faces away from the wind, allowing the blades to be pushed from behind. This design reduces the risk of blades striking the mast and enables the use of lighter, more flexible blades.
  • Quick-Connect system: Before deployment, the SPM is installed with a quick-connect system that allows the platform to snap into place upon arrival. This feature simplifies the installation process and reduces costs.

Benefits and scalability

The X90 platform offers several benefits:

Reduced seabed footprint: The innovative mooring and platform design minimize the impact on the seabed.

X1 Wind Floating Offshore Wind Platform Downwind
NextFloat+ platform faces the wind backwards, reducing structural strain and preventing blades from striking the mast, unlike traditional wind turbines.

Cost-effective and easier maintenance: The simplified design and flexible blades make the system cheaper and easier to maintain.

Scalability: The modular design of the platform supports scalability. A commercial platform of over 20 MW is already in the planning stages, indicating potential for larger-scale deployments.

Funding and future prospects

The NextFloat+ Project has received substantial funding from various sources, including the European Commission’s Horizon Europe program, the French Government’s France 2030 plan operated by ADEME, and private investments. This financial support underscores the project’s potential to enhance the competitiveness of floating wind technology and pave the way for long-term mass deployment worldwide.

X1 Wind X90 Mass Production
The X90 platform is designed for mass production, with plans for future commercial models exceeding 20 MW.

X1 Wind CEO and co-founder Alex Raventos expressed enthusiasm about the support received, highlighting the significance of the grant in driving improvements and preparing for widespread deployment of floating wind technology.

Conclusion

The NextFloat+ Project represents a significant advancement in offshore wind technology. By addressing the engineering challenges associated with traditional wind turbines and introducing innovative solutions, the project promises to make offshore wind farms more efficient, cost-effective, and scalable. As the prototype undergoes testing in the Mediterranean, the industry will be watching closely to see how this innovative approach can transform the future of renewable energy.

Source: X1 Wind