Offshore Wind Power Tested In California

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Wind power is increasing in popularity, and according to the American Wind Energy Association, makes up about 2.3 percent of the US electricity, up from the 1.8 percent from 2009. Still, one of the largest hurdles of wind power is consistency. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Norwegian company SWAY have teamed together to utilize untapped strong wind power off the coast of California.

Currently, California does not allow for offshore wind farms, however, LLNL has signed a memorandum of understanding with SWAY and recently demonstrated – on June 10 – small scale prototypes of the deep sea offshore wind turbines off the coast of Norway. These prototypes were scaled down to a fifth of the actual size to show how the turbines would work on the Pacific Ocean.

Image via LLNL

Typical offshore wind farms sit at around 0-30 meters and are generally anchored to the ocean floor via technology based on deep sea drilling. SWAY’s prototypes will be located at depths of from 60-400 meters and placed atop floating platforms. According to LLNL, there is much more consistent wind energy offshore than onshore and power generation is significantly higher. LLNL will base placement of these wind farms on predictive weather models, ocean circulation and wake turbulent studies.

According to Nalu Kahaaini, LLNL’s Low-Carbon Energy Program leader, “California has an abundance of deep water wind resources, so this is an opportunity for the state.” SWAY’s technology is especially useful for California as the only option for offshore wind farms is deep in the ocean, away from coastlines.