LISBON, March 16 (Reuters) - Portugal plans to hold its first auction for floating offshore farms this summer, which it hopes will be able to produce between 3 and 4 gigawatts (GW) of power in 2026, Environment and Energy Transition minister Joao Matos Fernandes told Reuters.
As part of a global shift away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels, countries are betting on new technologies to boost power generation from renewable energies such as wind and solar.
Floating wind technology, seen as the final frontier in the offshore wind industry, is gaining traction in countries such as Britain, France and parts of south-east Asia.
While it is expected to be more efficient than fixed-bottom offshore wind turbines, there is no commercial-scale project yet in operation and costs are expected to remain high this decade.
Matos Fernandes said Portugal's wind conditions made the technology efficient and viable, and was hopeful it would help lower electricity tariffs in the long run, as well as help the country meet its goal of being a net energy exporter.
He lamented the environmental licensing of large onshore wind farms was "becoming more complicated, due to the ecological footprint they always have," but said Portugal could side-step that by using floating turbines in its deep coastal waters.
"Portugal wants to become a major exporter of renewable energy in the future and therefore has to bet on wind offshore," he said in an interview.
Portugal, which closed its two coal-fired power plants last year, has 7.3 GW of hydroelectric capacity and 5.6 GW of onshore wind, which together represent 83% of its total installed capacity.
The country, committed to become carbon neutral by 2050, gets 60% of its electricity from renewable sources, and the minister believes it will reach 80% before the target date of 2030.
Currently, Portugal has only a small, 25 megawatts floating wind project off its Atlantic coast.
The European Union has 16 GW of installed offshore wind capacity and aims to reach at least 60 GW by 2030.
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