Thursday, 28 June 2007

Floating wind farms could solve our electricity problems

The problem with wind farms is they’re massive, they damage the local environment and wildlife and the local populations hate them. Although they are good for reducing CO2 emissions, they blight the rural landscape. Now there is possibly an answer to these problems.

Seimens and Norsk Hydro have teamed up to try to generate electricity in the middle of the North Sea. They are testing a prototype wind turbine in the North Sea. It will be the world’s first floating off-shore wind farm. The prototype project could be finished in 2009 and if it works, a small offshore wind farm of 200 turbines could be built by 2014. This could provide enough electricity for many coastal cities. What is new and unique about this project is that the actual wind turbines are floating and tethered to the seabed, rather than fixed into the seabed. This means they can be much further out to sea where the winds are much stronger and more consistent. The other advantage is environmental. There is a great deal of public hostility to wind farms in the locality of the proposed installations. No one wants a massive wind farm on their doorstep. Quite apart from this, is the impact on the wildlife around the proposed wind farms. You only have to look at the opposition to the wind farms at Whinash near Kendal and on the Greek island of Skyros, to realise how unpopular these installations are.

This is no doubt an engineering challenge, but if successful will pave the way for many more floating wind farms. The prototype turbine is expected to produce 5 megawatts, enough for 1,000 homes. This is an elegant and effective solution that meets all the criteria for renewable electricity without the environmental damage or public opposition.

[Via The Independent]

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