Norway’s StatoilHydro and its new division Hywind have towed and anchored a floating 2.3-MW wind turbine to a spot about 10 km off the southwest coast of Norway. A 100-m buoyancy section of the tower keeps the rest of the unit floating upright. It’s anchored to the seabed with cables. The turbine can be placed at depths from 120 to 700 m. The Hywind, built by Siemens, combines technologies from the wind farming industry and oil and gas sectors, and will serve as a two-year test bed.
“This should help move wind farms offshore and out of sight and away from where they cause disruption,” says Statoil spokesperson Alexandra Beck Gjorv. This would benefit military radar operations, the shipping industry, fisheries, bird life, and tourism.
“Taking wind turbines to sea presents new opportunities,” adds Gjorv. “Wind is stronger and more consistent and the areas are large.” Floating wind farms will be connected to mainland grids by cables on the seabed.
Offshore wind farms cost considerably more than wind farms on land, and initially floating ones will be more expensive than static offshore installations. But over time, says Gjorv, the floating designs should not cost more than fixed ones. Statoil plans to target markets where there is an ability to pay along with a growing demand for energy. Floating wind farms could be established off the coasts of North America, the Iberian peninsula, Norway, and the U.K. she said. Floating wind farms could also provide an additional source of energy for countries that have run out of space for their onshore wind farms, or where there is not enough wind on land.
“The potential global market for such turbines is enormous, depending on how low we can press costs,” she said, though she was not able to quantify them or outline a timescale for when floating wind farms would become commercially available.
StatoilHydro is investing around NOK 400 million in the construction and development of the pilot. The public corporation Enova SF, whose aim is to promote the transition to environmentally friendly energy use and energy production in Norway, has granted NOK 59 million in support. The table has a few more specs:
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