The first large-scale ocean-based wind power project is set for beginning research.
StatoilHydro announced plans to test offshore wind turbines, starting with a 2.3-megawatt turbine measuring 65 meters high, buoyed and tied down by three anchors. While not the only ocean-bound wind turbine project in the works, this new project, called Hywind, will launch in 2009 off the coast of Norway and is particularly unique because of how far off shore the turbines can be placed. Because they float instead of being tied to the ocean floor, they’re operable in depths up to a whopping 700 meters. And when the average ocean depth off Norway is about 1,450 meters, this means they can go way, way off-shore.
Issues to be analyzed include the cost of getting the power generated back to landlubber users, its efficiency at generating power while being knocked around in waves and storms, and the ability to safely perform maintenance on the units. This research will take a good chunk of time before offshore wind farms are a reality, or even practical. Not mentioned in the article but also important to research is any impact on marine life, especially sea birds, that not only a single unit but an entire fleet of wind turbines may have.
This is an interesting alternative to land-based wind farms, which seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Ocean-based wind farms will take out some of the ugly factor, though they present more obvious technical issues than land-based turbines. Yet, they may be more practical for large-scale power creation for big cities than flying wind power generators, depending on how the testing goes.
The undertaking is huge, but I am optimistic that utilizing our vast ocean space for generating sustainable power is in the near future. It may even be possible to combine water-generated power with the wind-generated power, maximizing efficiency of the resources invested in creating the turbines.
Meanwhile, I would love to see bright painted letters donning the first turbine "Ishmael".