Windcrete: Offshore Wind Turbine Technology at a Lower Cost

Offshore wind turbineResearchers and scientists deal with major obstacles on a daily basis. One very real issue that they face when talking about green technology is finding a way to reduce the maintenance and construction costs.

Researchers from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), have developed a floating structure model for offshore turbines which they call WindCrete. This turbine is capable of anchoring below the surface of the ocean, at far greater depths, and is capable of reducing costs up to 12 euro cents per kwh.

The new prototype was developed by researchers Climent Molins and Alexis Campos of UPC’s Dept. of Civil Engineering. By using concrete, rather than steel, they were able to cut construction costs by about 60%.

They have created a self-stabilizing structure with a large float and ballast. The self-stabilization, which is a crucial element in design, allows this cylindrical turbine to stay upright even in tougher weather.

The offshore wind turbine is not a new concept, just very expensive. In 2011, Japan made plans to build a wind farm off the shore of Fukushima due to the scarcity of electric power available after the nuclear disaster. The plan to build as many as 80 off Fukushima by 2020 is great and the new technology made possible with WindCrete may help to cut the cost of this wind farm, drastically.

Finding a stable, low cost and widely useable energy source is the goal of researchers and this makes floating wind turbines a very common theme, especially with the earths surface covered in 71% water. The number of turbines that can be placed in watery areas could greatly increase wind power capability.

The largest floating wind farm in the world has just been approved by the Scottish government and will be developed by Statoil. This project, which developers are calling Hywind, will be placed 25 kilometers offshore from Peterhead and will consist of 5 six MW turbines that are capable of generating the electricity to power 20,000 households. It is being completed in 2017, prior to Fukushima, making this the world’s first floating wind farm.

With human beings discovering new low-carbon power options that are available from natural sources such as hydroelectric, solar, geothermal, tidal and wind, our responsibility as caretakers of the earth is to research and discover ways to use them efficiently.

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