Floating wind turbines, which could theoretically take advantage of superior wind conditions in deep waters far offshore to increase power production, are getting a boost from the United States and the United Kingdom.
Government energy honchos from the U.S. and U.K. are joining ministers from nearly two dozen other countries at the Clean Energy Ministerial in London later this week, and along the way the Yanks and Brits will ink a deal to collaborate on advancing floating wind turbine technology, the U.K.’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) said.
“Floating wind turbines will allow us to exploit more of the our wind resource, potentially more cheaply,” U.K. Energy Secretary Edward Davey said in a statement. “Turbines will be able to locate in ever deeper waters where the wind is stronger but without the expense of foundations down to the seabed or having to undertake major repairs out at sea.”
While the countries are vowing to work together on floating turbines, moving farther out to sea appears to be a more pressing issue for the U.K. as its fast-growing offshore wind industry fills in the best shallow-water sites. The U.S. has yet to grid-connect a single offshore wind farm, although the Obama administration has made stepping up progress a priority.
The DECC noted that U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu recently unveiled a six-year, $180 million offshore wind initiative that will fund four demonstration projects. Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is putting together a £25 million ($40 million) offshore wind floating system demonstration project. The goal is to have an offshore wind turbine capable of cranking out 5 to 7 megawatts of power by 2016.
“Selection of the organisation to deliver the project is ongoing and an announcement on who will be carrying out the project on behalf of the ETI is expected early next year,” the DECC said. “The ETI is also currently investigating various sites that could host the demonstrator and has announced that it is working with WaveHub, 16 kilometres north east of St Ives off the Cornish coast to carry out a site feasibility study.”
As far as we know, Principle Power’s 2-MW turbine called WindFloat is the deep-water turbine project that’s farthest along. Late last year it became the first offshore wind turbine to be installed without the use of lift vessels-and the first floating wind turbine platform in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean-when it was towed out to sea and put in place about 215 miles off the coast of Agucadoura, Portugal.
The DECC said working together with the U.S. “will ensure that both countries align our resources to maximise the impact for both countries. It will also enable the sharing of best practice and expertise. Ultimately it is hoped that this approach will result in more cost effective, higher yield floating wind technologies being developed.”