What has three blades and floats?
A Norweigian company called Statoil is set to build the first floating wind warm in the world. If the construction goes according to schedule, the revolutionary Hywind Pilot Park should be up and running off the coast of Scotland by the end of 2017.
Statoil has been working on floating turbine technology for years. It built its first prototype in Norway in 2009. Following successful tests, it made plans to grow the tech into a full-scale commercial wind farm. Scotland leased the ocean land to Statoil in 2016.
The Scotland project will consist of five six-megawatt wind turbines. The turbines will be tethered together, sharing infrastructure like power cables and transmission facilities. Once its up and running, the project should power about 56,000 Scottish homes each year.
Offshore wind energy is one of the fastest growing areas of renewable energy. It is particularly big in the UK, where shallow shorelines and powerful coastal winds make for perfect conditions for offshore turbines. Recently, New York State also announced plans to auction 33,000 hectares of ocean land for an offshore wind project.
The benefits of offshore wind turbines are many. Offshore turbines are more than double the size of their landlocked cousins. With nothing around to slow them down, sea winds are far stronger and more consistent than on-shore winds, so harnessing their power can generate even more energy. Offshore turbines also solve the NIMBY problem that plagues wind advocates.
However, putting up a wind turbine in the ocean is no simple task. The turbines are huge, and bolting one to the seafloor is no easy task. It’s costly and time-consuming. Since seafloor mounted wind turbines can only go as deep as 260 feet, they aren’t suitable everywhere.
Floating wind farms would solve many of the challenges that come with traditional offshore wind farms.
The floating wind turbines can be installed in waters up to 1,000 feet deep – more than double that of regular offshore turbines. This means they can be used in areas surrounded by deeper ocean waters, like much of Japan and the eastern United States. This could help countries meet their renewable energy goals.
Rather than anchoring the turbines to the ocean floor, Statoil will tether them together to an anchor and stabilize them with floating steel tubes. Since the eliminates the need to build a large foundation, floating wind turbines will likely be easier and more economical to install.