Floating offshore wind market trends in Europe

Floating offshore wind market trends in Europe

Insights from Prysmian’s Juliano de Mello, Offshore Wind Developers Business Director, and Davide Taddei, Product Management Director. 



Insights from Prysmian’s

Juliano de Mello, Offshore Wind Developers Business Director
Davide Taddei, Product Management Director.


Europe is expected to become the largest floating offshore wind power market, according to a recent report from Reportlinker. Europe currently has 113 MW of floating wind in operation but European governments have set a target of 450GW of offshore wind by 2050, according to Wind Europe. Prysmian’s top management is very much committed to leading in the offshore floating wind market, required to realise these goals.

Can you share a little about your background and view of the floating offshore wind market?


Juliano de Mello: “I am fully focused on the offshore wind business as Business Director Offshore Wind Developers, reporting directly to our CCO. The global nature of our business and the many local variations present interesting challenges for me and my team!”

Davide Taddei: “My key role is in the area of product development. I am responsible for making sure Prysmian can meet every conceivable market requirement. My team and I are involved in the floating part of the business, where we’re seeing many new developments.”

Are there standardized business models when it comes to offshore wind?


Juliano de Mello: “Generally speaking, we can distinguish two main offshore wind market models. There’s a model where the offshore wind farm developer takes care of the export cable that connects the wind farm to land – from here, the national grid operator takes over. The second model is one in which the connection from the land point to the first substation or turbine is the responsibility of the TSO (Transmission System Operator).

In both business models, my team and I are fully involved in the IAC (Inter-array Cable Systems) - the IAC is the electrical connection between the wind generators.

The floating business is very new, so there are no standards yet. The US in particular is a relatively unexplored territory.

How important is offshore floating wind to reaching Europe’s 450GW goal?


Juliano de Mello: “The importance of offshore wind is enormous, as 450GW is a very ambitious target. Most current large-scale projects have been executed in the North Sea and the Baltic for two main reasons: the wind profiles in those areas are very favourable and the water is very shallow. To realise the ambitious goals, we needed to expand the areas in which we generate wind energy. In the Mediterranean area, the challenge is a less favourable overall with a very deep water table, in excess of 100m, making fixed-bottom installations very difficult indeed. So we definitely need floating wind to reach the goals.”

Davide Taddei: “You might want to build a swimming pool on your balcony, but because space is limited, the best you can do is a jacuzzi - there’s just no way around it. In the same way, you might want to generate 450GW, but it simply can’t be done with fixed-bottom wind alone. The area available for traditional wind is big, but simply not big enough. Going further from the shore enormously increases the space in which wind farms can be built. From 2026 on, I expect floating wind to ramp up considerably and represent 50% of all wind energy generated. By the way: that 450GW goal was still ‘only’ 150GW not that long ago so it would not be a surprise if it increased further still in the near future!”

Wind Europe predicts that by 2024 Europe will have 330 MW of floating wind in operation and can expect to have 10 GW of floating wind by 2030. Which factors might make this a reality, and which factors might prevent these predictions from coming true?


Juliano de Mello: “Looking at installation, there’s no clear legislation yet in the some of the areas we’ve mentioned, such as the eastern Mediterranean, Italy, Cyprus and Greece. It’s not clear who will take care of which connection. The supply chain is another limitation. There are currently several different prototypes of floaters used in floating wind farm design. We can’t develop every type of application for so many options. The natural narrowing down of available floater options should help the industry significantly in reaching the 450GW target. In general, floaters are still very much in the prototype phase. We also need to have floating substations in operation before the market can ramp up.”

Davide Taddei: “Looking at the cabling technology: there will be nearly 300 MW of floating offshore wind installed by 2024, which is really not all that much. These often require MV cabling, which is easier to work with than HV. However, HV cabling is a key enabler for this market and the industry simply doesn’t have enough experience with floating dynamic export cables yet. Although there are no insurmountable challenges and the entire industry is working on this, it will take 2-3 years before a commercial floating offshore wind farm is built.”

“We also need to consider the overall supply chain. First of all: cable manufacturing capacity. Secondly: availability of turbines, which can reach 200m. In pilot projects, we’ve seen two or three turbines, whereas a real-world mid-sized project would feature 20-40. Imagine you have ten products of this size being built worldwide: the manufacturing and logistics for cabling and turbines will become very challenging. Not every port can handle a 200m turbine, for example. The industry and infrastructure really need to be ready before we can grow! Fortunately, we’re moving from 30MW to 100MW projects and learning all the time, which helps standardize our work and develop best practices.”

Which Prysmian products, services, and expertise are key to leading in this area? What is the key added value we can add for customers? Which other benefits are there?

Juliano de Mello: “It’s a fast-developing market and requirements change every day. We’ll soon be announcing major new projects, but at the same time we’re still in a learning curve and trying to streamline as much as we can. This is true of the entire industry. There are a many new clients in the market, and we need to help manage their expectations. They don’t always listen though! However, we’re sticking to our message: you can’t go from a walking pace to 1,000km/h right away.”

Davide Taddei: “Floating wind farms require dynamic cables with improved internal performance. These have a great deal in common with the umbilicals used for oil and gas, an area in which Prysmian has considerable experience and expertise. Prysmian Brazil has up to 40 years of experience in this area, which we can translate to other cables and voltages. We are in line with others in the market when it comes to floating cable products, but we also offer vast deep water experience and a global footprint which gives us an advantage. We’ll keep fine-tuning our R&D to create the products the market is asking for. It’s our duty to help manage customer expectations and explain they can’t simply develop enormous projects in a very short time. If a client has little experience, we might advise them to start with 500MW and expand to 3GW later. We have almost thirty years of wind experience and want to use that to help them avoid operational risks or bad investments.”


What legislation and government policies and measures are required to help reach the goals we discussed earlier?

Juliano de Mello: “This is different for each country. However, generally, it’s still a complicated process that could be much shorter and easier. Bureaucracy has been a challenge for hundreds, years, but governments have to make permit and construction processes easier and more standardized otherwise reaching the 450GW target will become really difficult.

Davide Taddei: “We often tell clients that the market has changed a lot over the past years. Formerly, they might consider a project five or six years before getting permits, they’d bring consultants on board to work on the specification, work on tenders that take several years. A project could easily take ten years. Now, we suggest carrying out due diligence and carrying out the project with the supply chain partners to be more efficient.”

Juliano de Mello: “Floating wind farms have a completely different design and require different types of cable and technology than traditional wind farms. At the same time, there are many new developers entering in the market, so we see brand new faces all the time and we need to help them define their priorities. It’s positive that we now have many new ideas and people to work with! We’re certainly not getting bored!”

Davide Taddei: “We’ve seen traditional wind farm projects where buyers adopted an ‘ebay’ strategy and considered cabling as nothing more than a commodity. With dynamic cabling, this would never work. Each project and system are different. Nothing is standardized. You can use existing products but need to check thoroughly whether they can be optimized for specific conditions.”