The renewable energy race is heating up with three new floating wind farm technologies squaring off for top spot. The challenge for floating wind farm engineering is to create a system that can be anchored deep in the oceans and stand up to the worst weather the world can throw at them. The reward is the ability to harness some of the most powerful winds on Earth. Current ocean wind farm technology involves anchoring turbines to the ocean floor, which gets costly and challenging at sea depths more than 40 meters (131 feet). Read on to learn how three cutting-edge technologies are changing the game.

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The frontrunner amongst the companies pioneering floating wind farm technology is the Windfloat platform, put forward by US-based Principle Power. In place since 2012, the Windfloat is only the second-ever full-scale floating turbine deployed at sea. Its blades turn 120 meters above the ocean’s surface and are stabilized by a three-pillared triangular platform with legs that go 20 meters beneath the surface and contain ballast water that shifts and controls swaying. The Windfloat has generated almost 1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity since it was installed, and it survived brutal weather of Portugal’s coast this past winter. Principle recently got $50 million from the US Department of Energy to help fund the installation of five 6 Megawatt turbines in 350 meter-deep water off the Oregon Coast.

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Competing with Principle’s Windfloat for floating wind farm supremacy is the first-ever floating turbine, which was put in place off the coast of Stavanger, Norway. Statoil’s Hywind has been generating power since 2010. Its design is significantly different than the others, with just one long 100-meter ballast column loosely anchored to the ocean bottom with mooring lines.

Two Japanese companies are also throwing their hats into the ring – according to the Guardian, floating wind farm technology kicked into high gear after the Fukushima meltdown and the country’s first floating turbine was anchored in 2013. Now industrial giants Mitsubishi and Mitsui are battling each other to install 1 Gigawatt of energy by 2020 – the equivalent of a nuclear power station – which includes 80 turbines off the coast of Fukushima.

Via the Guardian

Images via Untrakdrover, Wikimedia Commonsand magnera, Flickr Creative Commons