Breakthrough for wind energy?

windfloatWind turbine-based energy is already far ahead of solar as a source of renewable energy. But wind energy could play an even much more important part if it could overcome the “nimby” effect that has kept or delayed these installations in many parts of the US and in other parts of the world. Few people want to live close to the huge, noisy turbines or even look at them when they are a considerable distance away, This has specifically delayed the proposed very large wind turbine installation near Nantucket Island, for example, even though it is miles away from Cape Cod.

A recent article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek describes efforts by several U.S. firms to develop wind turbine installations on floating platforms that could be placed in the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans  far away from shore. Floating platforms make this possible, since there is then no need to anchor the installation to the ocean floor. The concept is very similar to deep ocean drilling for oil or gas which now uses stationary vessels to house the drilling rig.  Floating platforms can be placed 20 or more miles away from shore, where they will no longer be considered a nuisance. Wind turbines as high as 350 feet are being built by Siemens. One of these is planned for an offshore floating platform offshore Maine by a consortium including the University of Maine.

One of the developers, Principle Power,  installed a 2MW turbine in a floating vessel offshore Portugal and hopes to eventually generate 150MW at this location. And the Department of the Interior recently okayed a 30MW floating wind farm offshore Oregon that the company will build with six Siemens 5MW turbines. Project cost is estimated at $200MM. Floating wind turbine platforms now cost slightly more than stationary platforms, but learning curve experience should bring their price down. Principle Power is a private company based in Seattle,


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