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Floating foundations: A game changer for offshore wind

This brief summarizes the opportunities floating foundations offer to the offshore wind industry as they allow access to deep-water sites, ease turbine set-up and tend to have lower environmental impact than fixed-bottom designs.


Offshore wind turbines, rooted to the seabed by monopile or jacket foundations, are restricted to waters less than 50 metres deep. This rules out sites with the strongest winds and, often, access to big markets. Some of the largest electricity markets Japan and the United States possess few shallow-water sites suitable for offshore wind development. Floating foundations could be game changers in this regard.

Floating foundations offer the offshore wind industry two decisive opportunities:

  • They allow access to deep-water sites.
  • They ease turbine set-up.

In addition, floating foundations tend to have lower environmental impact than fixed-bottom designs.

This brief is a supplement to Innovation Outlook: Offshore Wind (IRENA, 2016), part of a series analysing emerging developments that are making renewable energy technologies (RETs) increasingly competitive in the world’s energy markets. Each innovation outlook identifies technology-, industry- and policy-related challenges to be overcome and assesses the potential breakthroughs and research needed to scale-up the deployment of renewable-based solutions.