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Whatever Floats Your...Wind Turbine?

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has conceived of a new way to mount wind turbines a hundred miles out in the ocean.  Usually only allowed a few miles out because of depth restrictions, current offshore wind turbines stand on towers that are driven into the ocean floor.  This new design will use buoyancy instead of that tower to support the turbine.

The turbine is also enlarged in this new design, floating atop a platform approximately 30 meters in diameter.  Industry is developing the five-megawatt experimental turbine that will stand 90 meters tall.  Due to its gargantuan size, it will have to be assembled onshore, and then pulled out to the tethers waiting offshore.

The tethers will be installed on the ocean floor.  They will allow the platform to move side to side, but not up and down, which has been shown to be a very stable configuration.  It also ensures that the turbine blades will remain out of reach of any waves.

Paul D. Sclavounos is a professor of mechanical engineering and naval architecture at MIT.  He estimates that this method of construction will cost a third of the truss tower design for deep-sea installations.  Gizmag’s story includes MIT’s testing plans for their new offshore wind turbine support structure.

Strong offshore winds are expected to produce twice as much electricity as onshore wind.  The floating turbines will also give flexibility to the grid, as they can be moved from place to place to serve areas that may need more power for a while.

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Comments

Hi Tyler,
I believe this is simply a research project out of MIT, rather than a technology proven for any commercial construction projects just yet. The visibility of the wind turbines depends on the depth of the water as you travel further from shore. Since these wind turbines are made for deeper waters, they could presumably be located far enough offshore that they would not be visible, at least from ground level.

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