Offshore wind farms hold incredible promise for the future of clean energy production. But a major obstacle is the difficulty of installing turbine towers in deep water where the sheer distance down to the ocean floor makes drilling and securing pylons all but impossible. Scotland may have the answer: Make ’em float.
Hywind Scotland is the world’s first floating wind farm. Bobbing in the waves nearly 600 feet above the sea floor and some 15.5 miles off the coast of Peterhead, Scotland, the farm’s five turbines have just been connected to the power grid and are expected to generate 30MW of energy—enough to power 20,000 homes.
According to the farm’s creators, some 80 percent of potential sites for offshore wind farms are in water more than 200 feet deep, and their floating system can work at depths of nearly half a mile.
The genius is in the design. Each massive turbine tower rises 575 feet above the water surface from water to blade tip. But it also extends another 255 feet below the surface with a floating substructure that stabilizes the windmill with 5,000 tons of iron ore ballast. Three enormous cables tether each windmill to the sea bed.
“Hywind Scotland is showing that floating wind technology can be commercially viable wherever sea depths are too great for conventional fixed offshore wind power. This opens up a number of new geographies, and we are already looking at future opportunities with our partners, building on our existing international portfolio in onshore and offshore wind energy, and solar power,” said Mohamed Al Ramahi, CEO of Masdar, an operator of the project, along with Statoil.