The makers of wind turbines, for decades now, have been working hard to harness the power of the Universe. They moved from the coast to coastal areas, building larger rotors with larger blades, each now longer than 10 London bus lanes. And they put those rotors on top of the confusing towers, which always reach high, low altitudes.
In their relentless pursuit of power, reliable engineers are now moving toward the oceans, heading for higher ground where known winds are blowing. In coastal wind turbines — with their fixed foundations that can extend down to only 60 meters — such areas have long been banned. But a new generation of floating machines seems to be changing that.
The potential benefits are enormous. According to the industrial organization Wind Europe, 80 percent of Europe’s offshore wind turbines are located in the deepest parts of the world, making land-based wind turbines an economically viable option. Deepwater also prevents the installation of large offshore wind farms along the west coast of the U.S., for example.
Floating turbines can open up a vast ocean area to generate electricity. But various floating turbine designs compete for cost and efficiency. It is time to start hunting for the winner, given the billions of dollars currently invested in the offshore wind industry and the Ukrainian war may accelerate from mineral oil.
There is even more pressure because, despite the installation of air currents at sea by 2021, the industry is falling short of what is needed to mitigate climate change, according to a new report by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
The council says the floating wind is “one of the most important transformers” in the industry. However, particular engineering challenges for placing wind turbines on floating foundations, where they have to contend with the green forces of stormy seas and unpredictable weather, have resulted in various solutions.
Take the Norwegian firm Wind Catching Systems (WCS). The workers there spent five years working on their large waffle frame adorned with no less than 126 rotor wind turbines — like a giant Connect 4 set full of spinning blades. The entire structure, about the size of the Eiffel Tower, sat on a floating platform, similar to that used for an oil mill.