Now that the Cape Wind offshore wind farm project has been approved, could folks living in coastal states starting seeing other new wind farm projects develop in the waters outside there homes? The potential exists for that close in shallow waters, but to fully go to the distance when it comes to wind power as a primary energy source for millions of needs, argues one researcher, giant deep water wind turbines must be considered.
David Olinger, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Mass., is co-principal investigator on a project considering the feasibility of deep water offshore wind turbines. What exactly is this, you might ask? Shallow water (less than 30 meters in depth) wind turbines are typically affixed to a location underwater via foundation-based towers. Deep water units, by contrast, must be designed to float because of depth issues and also more turbulent water conditions. Olinger’s team is researching “the potential for developing offshore wind farms consisting of up to 100 floating turbines each capable of generating five megawatts of electricity (more than 60 percent larger than typical land-based turbines), or enough to power up to 500,000 typical homes.” This research includes paying attention to “the obstacles associated with placing turbines weighing up to 15 million pounds atop [floating] towers as tall as 300 feet in deep ocean waters.”
“Floating wind turbines, located far from land, would solve the environmental and aesthetic concerns associated with placing turbines near attractive natural beaches and coastal environments,” said Olinger in a statement. “Before deep water turbines can be developed and successfully deployed, a host of questions must be answered so that they can be appropriately designed.”