The world’s first full-scale floating wind farm has started to take shape off the northeast coast of Scotland.
The revolutionary technology will allow wind power to be harvested in waters too deep for the current conventional bottom-standing turbines. The Peterhead wind farm, known as Hywind, is a trial, which will bring power to 20,000 homes.
Ministers in Scotland hope the project, which is owned by Norwegian oil group Statoil, will be one of several floating wind schemes off the Scottish coast that could open up waters previously considered too deep for offshore wind.
So far, one giant turbine is already been moved into place, while four more wait in readiness in a Norwegian fjord. By the end of the month they will all have been towed to 25 kilometres off Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.
The floating wind turbines have been developed by adapting “spar buoy” technology from the oil and gas industry- effectively giant cylinders used to support floating platforms. The spars have been filled with water and ballast to make sure the turbines remain upright. 78 metres of the structure are below the water and 175 metres rises above it and each turbine has three anchors attached to the seabed.
Each of the five turbines are designed to generate six megawatts of electricity and are expected to power 20,000 households from as early as October. Statoil also add that the output from the turbines is expected to equal or surpass generation from current ones.
This project has caught the interest of other countries including France, Japan and Portugal as conventional fixed bottom offshore farms can only be installed in shallower waters, typically less than 40 metres in depth.
However whether floating wind turbines move beyond this small pilot project will depend on cost. The £190 million cost for this project has been subsidised through a “Renewable Obligation Certificates” subsidy scheme- a type of funding for renewable electricity projects in the UK.
Floating turbines may create a new frontier for energy – but scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warn far more investment in additional new technologies is urgently needed for governments to keep promises on reducing emissions.