French startup Eolink — in collaboration with 15 European energy partners — will install a 5 MW floating offshore wind turbine in Bulgaria by 2025. This is part of the EU-backed Black Sea Floating Offshore Wind (BLOW) project, which aims to promote sustainable energy solutions.
BLOW will use Eolink’s patented floating offshore wind turbine design, which the company claims solves existing industry problems by using four steel masts instead of one to spread the turbine’s stresses. This would make the overall structure more than 30% lighter. According to the startup, the turbines can produce 10% more energy by reducing aerodynamic interactions thanks to a greater distance between the blades and masts.
The unit will be designed to operate at maximum efficiency in the Black Sea, and this will include fitting a larger rotor to allow it to generate more power in low wind areas.
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“The 2021 World Bank report indicates that there is huge technical potential in Southeastern Europe, with as much as 166 GW of floating offshore energy in the Black Sea alone, equivalent to five times the electricity consumption of Bulgaria and Romania” , says Eolink’s CCO. Alain Morry said in the press release. “Through this project, we hope to catalyze offshore development across the region, which already has ongoing solid-bottom offshore wind projects in Romania”
But while any renewable energy development sounds like a positive step for the EU, there is a catch: the wind turbine will be used to power an existing gas platform of Petroceltic, a Bulgarian oil and gas company. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon practice. Think of Norway’s Hywind Tampen, the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm, which also powers the country’s gas and oil production.
On the one hand, powering fossil fuel production with renewable energy is the lesser evil compared to conventional drilling or combustion practices. And developing a new industrial case for offshore wind relative to other traditional industries is a positive development. You could also argue that the lessons learned during the wind turbine manufacturing, installation and operation process could benefit larger wind farms in the future.
But on the other hand, it seems like a step backwards for the EU funding a green energy project to harvest the gas and oil that are endangering the planet. And while this may just be a transitional phase before we become fully dependent on renewables, the bloc would need to step up its game if it wants to meet its carbon neutrality targets by 2050.