Are Floating Wind Turbines the Future of Green Energy? Americans and British Partner to Develop Technology
Offshore energy, whether oil production or wind, seems to move in the same stages. Early offshore drilling was in shallow water using jack-up rigs sitting on the bottom. Now much of offshore oil production is from floating rigs, drilling in deep water. Likewise, the first offshore wind turbines were mounted on pedestals fixed to the sea floor. Wind technology may be moving into deeper water. In September of 2009, we posted about Hywind, the first the first full-scale floating wind turbine in the North Sea off South-west Norway. Now the US and the UK have agreed to work together to develop floating wind turbines operating in waters as deep as 500 feet. From the agreement announced yesterday:
In the UK, the Energy Technologies Institute is currently in the process of commissioning a £25m offshore wind floating system demonstrator….In the US, the Department of Energy have recently announced a $180m funding opportunity for up to four Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects in US waters – which potentially could include a floating wind demonstration.
The UK benefits from a third of Europe’s offshore wind potential, has more installed offshore wind than any other country, the biggest pipeline of projects and is rated year after year by Ernst & Young as the most attractive market among investors.
Exploiting this economically, particularly in deeper waters off the west of the country, will require significant technology developments to build large offshore wind arrays. Much of the deeper waters between 60 and 100 metres are too deep for fixed structures but benefit from consistently higher wind speeds.
Floating wind technologies could therefore open up new areas off the coast of the UK. This will ultimately increase the potential of this sector, particularly post 2020 as the available shallow water sites are developed, and will help to meet our decarbonisation and energy security targets.