Floating Wind Turbines Get Joint UK-US Focus

Floating wind turbines, which could theoretically take advantage of superior wind conditions in deep waters far offshore to increase power production, are getting a boost from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Government energy honchos from the U.S. and U.K. are joining ministers from nearly two dozen other countries at the Clean Energy Ministerial in London later this week, and along the way the Yanks and Brits will ink a deal to collaborate on advancing floating wind turbine technology, the U.K.’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) said.

floating wind turbine

image via Principle Power

“Floating wind turbines will allow us to exploit more of the our wind resource, potentially more cheaply,” U.K. Energy Secretary Edward Davey said in a statement. “Turbines will be able to locate in ever deeper waters where the wind is stronger but without the expense of foundations down to the seabed or having to undertake major repairs out at sea.”

While the countries are vowing to work together on floating turbines, moving farther out to sea appears to be a more pressing issue for the U.K. as its fast-growing offshore wind industry fills in the best shallow-water sites. The U.S. has yet to grid-connect a single offshore wind farm, although the Obama administration has made stepping up progress a priority.

The DECC noted that U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu recently unveiled a six-year, $180 million offshore wind initiative that will fund four demonstration projects. Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is putting together a £25 million ($40 million) offshore wind floating system demonstration project. The goal is to have an offshore wind turbine capable of cranking out 5 to 7 megawatts of power by 2016.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.