SEI’s Gridless Solutions Initiative explores alternative technologies in sectors like energy, sanitation and freshwater, often focusing on service provision in challenging contexts. One area of study involves marine platforms that integrate multiple uses, such as offshore wind farms coexisting with floating solar or wave energy, aquaculture or hydrogen production.
A new brief by Maria Xylia and Guido Mazza, Marine multi-use in practice: comparing offshore wind and hydrogen production applications, assesses the current use of these solutions and the obstacles they face. The findings were discussed in a webinar on 29 January, featuring experts from various organizations and moderated by Karina Barquet, SEI Water, Coasts and Ocean Team Lead.
The webinar shed light on the evolving world of offshore energy, sharing important findings and future strategies for boosting renewable energy production. Below are 10 key points summarizing the discussions.
- There is limited research but growing interest. Despite increasing interest in multiuse platforms, significant knowledge gaps remain. The Gridless team reviewed literature on marine, multifunctional, mobile and modular platforms, but much progress in the field is unrecorded in literature. Many studies are theoretical, obscuring the feasibility of combining certain services. To gain deeper insights, Xylia and Mazza also conducted stakeholder interviews.
- Wind + wave = true. The most common combination is different energy types, particularly offshore wind and wave energy, occasionally combined with aquaculture. This trend appeared in both academic studies and stakeholder interviews.
- Wind and hydrogen appeal to businesses. While little research exists on wind and hydrogen integration, this concept was popular among business representatives, as seen in stakeholder interviews and company communications about ongoing or planned projects.
- There is a need for large-scale testing. The Gridless team analysed 30 industry-led multiuse platform projects, finding that 28 were still in concept or pilot stages. Stakeholders highlighted the need for more large-scale testing to attract necessary investments.
- Europe and China are leading the way. About 75 percent of the projects analysed are in Europe, with the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany as frontrunners. China also has notable examples of combining energy and aquaculture.
- The EU plays an active role. The European Union is investing in multiuse platforms through research and innovation funds. Céline Frank from the Directorate-General MARE of the EU Commission described how these platforms could help the EU achieve several goals.
- Co-benefits are gaining attention. From the EU’s perspective, marine multiuse platforms support the Green Agenda and climate goals by enabling offshore wind farms and solar panels, particularly where land is scarce.
- Platforms can help protect biodiversity. Marine multiuse platforms can also help conserve land and ocean areas compared to separate projects, for example strengthening biodiversity protection in already fraught marine ecosystems.
- Permits and regulations must be better adapted to new needs. Manja Meister and Alessandra Tampieri from Orsted provided an industry viewpoint, appreciating EU interest but noting challenges with local regulations not being suited to new needs when applying for permits.
- The business sector is optimistic. Meister and Tampieri acknowledged the early stages of many technologies and the difficulty of sea deployment. Still, they remain optimistic about innovation and business potential, expecting synergies from operating different technologies together.