World’s first full-scale floating wind turbine inaugurated in Norway

Here’s an interesting news item (via ecoseed.org): The first floating, commercial-scale wind turbine has been deployed for testing in the North Sea:

The world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine, which has a capacity of 2.3 megawatts, was recently inaugurated in Norway.

The launch was celebrated by Technip, a Paris-based project management, engineering and construction company for the oil and gas industry, and StatoilHydro, a Norwegian energy company focused on upstream oil and gas operations.

Hywind floating wind turbine

Hywind floating wind turbine

Called the Hywind demonstration unit, the world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine will operate for a minimum of two years with the purpose of knowing more about the maintenance of floating offshore windmills and the practical aspects of the operation.

The unit’s base was designed and constructed by Paris-based Technip. The turbine itself is a Siemens Wind Power model. The tower was assembled remotely, and towed approximately 10 km (6 mi.) off the southwest shore of Norway to begin the demonstration phase.

This is interesting on several counts. Although wind turbines can be constructed just about anywhere, the best wind for commercial-scale generation blows over open water – coastlines and the Great Lakes. If this test is successful, it will dramatically impact the calculus for profitability for wind power. While offshore wind towers are already being constructed (a very large part of Britain’s goal of 15% renewable energy by 2020, for example), siting them on the ocean floor is a difficult undertaking that adds both time and expense to each project. If this demonstration project is successful, future turbines could be deployed much more quickly and easily – and with much lower cost.

The second thing that interests me is that this test is being underwritten by an oil and gas company. If the transition to sustainable energy – with minimal disruption – is going to happen, more involvement by the companies already involved in energy production and distribution has to happen. New technologies being tested by traditional energy suppliers is a good sign.

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