The world's first floating wind farm
Posted by Louisa Clarke on 24 July 2017 at 3:43 pm
At YouGen we love keeping up to date with the fantastic advancements in UK offshore windfarms. Such as the world’s largest wind turbines, recently switched on off the coast of Liverpool. Or the dramatic increases in onshore wind generation. Now we bring you something even more extraordinary, the world’s first floating wind farm.
Located off the north-east coast of Scotland, the wind farm will be operational later this year. After the turbines are tugged across the North Sea from a fjord off the west coast of Norway, they will reach the Scottish coast off Peterhead. This pioneering technology seeks to expand the network of offshore wind farms to deeper waters.
The Hywind Project, developed by Norway’s ‘Statoil’ and costing £200 million, involves five 6MW turbines that will be located 20-30m off the coast. It will power 20,000 homes, which is relatively low compared to other offshore wind farms. But this is just the beginning, and as Stephen Barth of IEA Wind (an intergovernmental wind power body) said, floating wind farms are projected to out-compete fixed-base turbines.
Offshore wind farms are expanding globally, and the energy produced from them is increasing. However, fixed-base turbines have one main problem: they can only be installed at water depths down to 40m. The majority of the sea is far, far deeper than this (nearly half the world’s oceans are over 3,000 meters deep), and so wind farms are currently restricted in their locations.
Floating wind turbines have many advantages over fixed-base turbines. It is suggested that they can work in depths of 100-700m, opening up new opportunities in wind farm development. By increasing the depths at which they can be built, they can reach areas with the strongest and most consistent winds further out to sea. Unsurprisingly, this could increase the energy produced. Also, by them being further away from the coast, it reduces visual pollution, thus decreasing objections by coastal residents. However, since the technology used is new and complicated, they are currently estimated at double the cost of conventional offshore wind farms with the same capacity.
The UK already has the most offshore wind capacity in the world, and these floating wind turbines provide even more new market opportunities. They allow wind farms to be built in the Atlantic and Mediterranean Oceans, where it is currently difficult to install offshore wind turbines. Other projects are already in the pipeline, for example WindFloat Atlantic is planned for 2018-2019 off the coast of Portugal. This will consist of a floating platform, kept stationary by anchors and chains that will carry a wind turbine. This should provide enough electricity to power 1,300 homes.
It’s not just wind farms that are feeling the float, China have recently developed the first floating solar farm. This is located in Huainan, China and consists of 160,000 panels. It can produce a maximum of 40MW of electricity, which could power 15,000 homes. It is situated on an abandoned coal mine in which they filled with water to create a reservoir. This technology is also projected to be popular, and similar to the floating wind farms, it increases the area in which solar panels can be installed. There is also the added positive that the water cools the solar panels down, preventing them from overheating.
In summary, building renewable energy technology on water is set to be an interesting expansion in the coming years. It increases the area that can be built on while also saving land space which would have otherwise been taken over by infrastructure. This makes renewable energy even more of a viable option, and looks likely to help the transition to low carbon energy in the future.
More information about Wind Power on YouGen.
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Image credit: Statoil https://www.statoil.com/en/news/hywindscotland.html
About the author: Louisa is a summer volunteer at The National Energy Foundation working primarily on the SuperHomes project. She is in her second year of studying Geography at Birmingham and is passionate about renewable energy and sustainability-related issues.
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