US Energy Secretary Steven Chu and his British counterpart Edward Davey are set to announce a major collaboration between the two nations to develop new floating wind turbine technology. Traditional offshore wind turbines are drilled into the ocean floor, so they can only be built where waters are shallow enough to reach the bottom. Developing floating wind turbines would enable nations to tap into winds that are located in deeper waters. Under the agreement, each country will offer millions of dollars to contractors that produce demonstration projects.
Most offshore wind farms are currently limited to parts of the ocean that are less than 200 feet deep. But wind speeds are consistently stronger above deeper waters. “Turbines will be able to locate in ever deeper waters where the wind is stronger but without the expense of foundation down to the seabed or having to undertake major repairs out at sea,” British Energy Secretary Edward Davey said in a statement. The technology shouldn’t be that far off, though; Norway has already launched a demonstration in the North Sea, and Portugal is working on a floating turbine in the Atlantic.
Another potential benefit to developing floating wind turbines is that the structures could be towed back to shore for repairs, instead of having to carry out expensive repair work in the ocean. According to Bloomberg, Britain has about one-third of the potential sites for offshore wind farms in Europe, which is more than any other nation.