Ocean bound: Since December, this prototype 80-kilowatt floating wind turbine has been absorbing wind energy off Puglia, Italy, in 108-meter-deep water, beyond the economically viable depth for turbines mounted on the seabed. Data from the machine’s interactions with wind and waves will inform the final design and control schemes for full-size floating turbines. Credit: Blue H Technologies
Offshore wind-farm developers would love to build in deep water more than 32 kilometers from shore, where stronger and steadier winds prevail and complaints about marred scenery are less likely. But building foundations to support wind turbines in water deeper than 20 meters is prohibitively expensive. Now, technology developers are stepping up work in floating turbines to make such farms feasible.
Several companies are on their way to demonstrating systems by borrowing heavily from oil and gas offshore platform technology. In December, the Dutch floating-turbine developer Blue H Technologies launched a test platform off Italy's southern coast; last month, the company announced its plans to install an additional test turbine off the coast of Massachusetts, and possibly begin constructing a full wind farm off the Italian coast, next year. Close behind is SWAY, based in Bergen, Norway, which raised $29 million last fall and plans to field a prototype of its floating wind turbine in 2010.
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