For nearly 30 years, the world has been collecting renewable wind energy by installing giant wind turbines off shorelines, anchored to the sea floor. That surplus of wind power helps turn wind turbines. Converting wind’s kinetic energy into a renewable source of electrical energy for homes and business. Now, a new kind of floating wind farm has been erected that isn’t anchored directly to the sea floor. It’s not the first, but it’s the biggest.
Welcome WindFloat Atlantic, the world’s largest offshore floating wind turbine. Connected to the energy grid off the Portuguese coast of Viana do Castelo. The turbine went online on New Years Day and began harvesting energy the day after. It’s a very big glimpse at the future of wind power.
The Biggest and Best Wind Farm
This one turbine is only the first of three floating platforms that are expected to go online this year as part of the project. Once all three are in place, the partners working on the project say the wind farm will be able to power 60,000 homes per year with renewable energy with its 25 megawatt capacity. The consortium behind the wind farm project says this is the world’s first “semi-submersible floating wind farm in the world.”LIKE THIS? YOU’LL LOVE THIS 8 Ways to Power Your Home With Renewable EnergyADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
The floating wind turbine is absolutely massive. Stretching over 98 feet high with about 164 feet of space between each column. That may not sound like much, considering traditional offshore wind turbines can get really huge. But remember—it’s all contained on a floating platform, which is a relatively new engineering feat. By comparison, the world’s largest stationary offshore wind farm features towers that reach over 328 feet. Although some of that height is actually underwater due to the anchoring mechanism. And one of the most popular industrial wind turbines on land. The GE 1.5-megawatt model, features a 212-foot tall tower and 116-foot blades.
But Windfloat Atlantic does owe a debt of gratitude to its floating forebears. A French company called Equinor (formerly called Statoil) developed the very first operational floating wind farm, called Hywind, off the coast of Scotland, near Aberdeenshire, in 2017.
Anchored vs. Floating Wind Farms
The first offshore turbines—making up the Vindeby Offshore Wind Farm—dates back to 1991 and was erected just off the coast of the Danish island of Lolland.
While the Vindeby Offshore Wind Farm was decommissioned in 2017 and dismantlement began in March 2017. It ushered in a whole new kind of wind energy collection. Today, the world’s largest offshore wind farm is taking shape 75 miles off of England’s Yorkshire coast. The wind farm, called Hornsea One, will be able to supply clean energy to 1 million UK homes when it’s completed later this year.
The difference between that project—which consists of 174 seven-megawatt wind turbines with towers that stand over 328 feet high—and WindFloat Atlantic. Is that the latter is partially submersible and can float rather than be fixed to the seabed.
A digital illustration of how a floating wind farm anchors to the seabed. EQUINORADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
WindFloat Atlantic platforms are anchored to the seabed with chains at a depth of about 300 feet. Which is farther out than the maximum depth that can currently possibly be reached by traditional bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines.
Because of this buoyant architecture, wind turbines can be installed further from the shore. Meaning more energy can potentially be harnessed as wind power is more plentiful out in the deep sea where winds are stronger and steadier.
Floating offshore wind farms also don’t require an expensive anchoring pad on the ocean’s seabed to hold it down. Which can not only help save on cost upfront. But can ensure that the floating wind turbines can be stationed further away from the horizon line. After all, coastal communities don’t love massive turbines disrupting a picture-perfect sunset. HARNESSING THE WINDSWind Turbine Transmits Energy with SuperconductorHow Wind Turbines Could Become More EfficientGE Just Switched On Their Next-Gen Wind Turbine
floating platforms are not completely dissimilar
Still, there are drawbacks. For one, floating platforms are not completely dissimilar from anchored offshore wind farms in that both require some form of infrastructure to tie it to the seabed. So there’s still the possibility of a floating platform’s connecting cables and chains. Potentially disrupting marine life or inviting invasive species to the area due to its positioning as an artificial reef.
On the engineering side, extra-heavy duty cables are required to fix the platforms in place and transfer the new energy through transmission cables. Not to mention, it’s a challenge to determine how to minimize movement in a floating structure. That’s a must because if waves move the turbines too much, the efficiency of energy collection decreases.
Like most green technologies, WindFloat Atlantic will likely hold the title of world’s largest floating wind farm for only a short time. Equinor is currently developing an 11-turbine floating wind farm called Hywind Tampen. And in Japan, a solar power firm called Shizen Energy is teaming up with a French floating offshore wind farm called Ideol to create a new one off the coast of Kyushu.