Floating Wind Turbines Headed for Offshore Farms

PrinciplePower.WindFloatFloating wind power is no longer science fiction. Promising results from five test platforms operating worldwide—including three in Japan—are turning into project plans for a first generation of floating wind farms. Industry analyst Annette Bossler, who runs Bremen, Maine-based Main(e) International Consulting, predicts that the number of test platforms will nearly double over the next two years and that commercialization is within site. “By 2018-2019 you will start to see the first really large-scale commercial use of floating platforms,” predicts Bossler.

Putting wind turbines on offshore platforms akin to those developed for the petroleum industry provides a means of exploiting high-quality offshore winds—which are stronger and more consistent than onshore winds—in waters too deep for today’s bottom-fixed foundations. Continue reading “Floating Wind Turbines Headed for Offshore Farms”

5 Megawatts-a-Pop and Prepped for High Seas Action

Here’s a shot of the prototype of REpower System’s 5-megawatt (MW) offshore wind turbine, which has been generating power since 2004 in Brunsbüttel near the mouth of the Elbe River on Germany’s North Sea. I stopped to see the original REpower 5M last week while reporting an upcoming feature for IEEE Spectrum and clocked the turbine’s 126-meter diameter rotor swinging at 11 rpm, nearly full speed. The 5M marks an awesome juxtaposition, with the 120-meter high turbine (hub height) towering over Brunsbüttel’s spongy marshland, chemical complexes and a nuclear power plant.

The 5M is creating buzz these days after RWE Innogy, the renewable energy subsidiary of German utility RWE, signed a deal to install 250 of them over the next five years. At a total value of €2 billion it is the biggest deal yet for offshore wind. It also cements plans for RWE’s Nordsee 1 wind farm, which could be Germany’s first worldscale offshore farm if the first 30 5Ms are installed in 2011 as planned. Nordsee 1, about 50 kilometers offshore, could ultimately grow to 1000 MW — the same scale as large coal and nuclear-fueled thermal power plants.

REpower's-5M-prototype-in-Brunsbuttel

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This post was created for Energywise, IEEE Spectrum’s blog on green power, cars and climate