Humans just took another huge step towards reducing our dependence on fossil fuels after the world’s first floating wind farm became much closer to becoming a reality. In what many are championing as a huge step forwards for renewable energy, the Hywind project is beginning to truly look feasible after two more gigantic turbines were floated late last month. This means that there are now five floating wind turbines bobbing up and down in the waters off the coast of Norway waiting for their eventual journey across the North Sea to their final resting place off the north-east coast of Scotland.
The Hywind Project
Although the Hywind project isn’t all that notable for its size—it will only be able to power an estimated 20,000 homes—it is notable for being the first wind farm to use floating turbines instead of the traditionally fixed turbines. Therefore, while it may not be able to compete with other wind farms that can power more than 800,000 homes, it also doesn’t have to. Instead, the point of the Hywind project seems to be to show that this floating turbine technology is feasible.
As well, the Hywind project is also notable for the fact that it is being built by an oil company and not a traditional renewable energy firm. By investing more than $250 million in the wind farm, Norway’s Statoil is both diversifying away from carbon-based energy sources and also potentially leading the way forward for wind energy.
Floating Wind Farm Technology
The North Sea has long been a popular place for offshore wind farms for the simple fact that its waters are much more conducive than those found in most other parts of the world. The reason is that traditionally fixed wind turbines can only be used in waters up to a depth of 40 meters as otherwise. As the waters of the North Sea are fairly shallow, it makes the area much more suitable than most other offshore areas. However, Statoil suggests that its floating wind turbines could potentially be used in waters that are anywhere from 100 to over 700 meters deep. If this proves to be true, it possibly opens up an almost endless opportunity to build floating offshore wind farms all around the world.
In order to be suitable for these deeper waters, the floating turbines used in the Hywind project will feature a 78-metre-long underwater ballast to help stabilize and counterbalance the upper part of the turbine. As well, each turbine will be attached to the sea floor via three mooring lines that are designed to ensure it remains upright.
Although it will still be some time before the Hywind project is complete and we fully understand the implications of floating turbine technology, there is still no doubt that the project has the potential to truly revolutionize the world of renewable energy. For this reason, it will be fascinating to watch and see how things continue to develop.