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In these troubling times we need all the good news we can get, and this week we finally got some: the largest floating wind turbine to date just went online off the coast of Portugal.
One of the three platforms that will make up the WindFloat Atlantic off-shore wind farm was connected to the grid via a 20-kilometre (12.4-mile) long cable on New Year’s Eve.
Once the other two platforms come online, WindFloat will be able to provide enough clean energy for around 60,000 homes.
Floating wind farms are able to take advantage of stronger winds because they’re on the ocean or sea, but the logistical challenges are considerable – the first such farm didn’t start producing electricity until 2017, so it’s still early days for the technology.
In particular, these floating electricity generators need to be able to stand firm against the movement generated by waves and wind, as well as the spin of the turbines themselves.
To overcome this issue, WindFloat developer Principle Power has anchored their turbines to the sea bed at a depth of 100 metres (328 feet).
Each of the three floating structures that make up the farm are 30 metres (almost 100 feet) in height – the largest floating wind turbines to date. Once they’re all working together they’ll manage an overall capacity of 25 megawatts. WindFloat is moored around 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) off the coast of Viana do Castelo.
A smaller WindFloat prototype was in operation off the coast of Portugal between 2011 and 2016 as a proof of concept.
To overcome some of the issues with building floating wind farms, Principle Power did most of the construction on land first before shipping the turbine into position.
“The commissioning of the WindFloat Atlantic project demonstrates the maturity and commercial readiness of floating off-shore wind technology,” Joao Metelo, the Principle Power chief executive, told ReNews.
“Wide deployment of this game-changing technology around the world would strengthen energy security and help governments tackle climate crisis quickly and at scale, while creating jobs and fostering economic growth.”
The second turbine has now been towed into position and will come online in the next few months, followed by the third.
Standard towing crafts are being used, rather than boats specially designed for these platforms, which will make it easier to roll out the technology to other parts of the world.
Let’s hope the progress that’s been made with renewable energy continues to pick up pace in 2020 and beyond.
Studies have shown that there’s plenty of untapped potential when it comes to harnessing the wind as an energy source, whether that’s with on-shore or off-shore farms.
Countries like Scotland are leading the way: it now produces twice as much electricity from wind power as it actually needs to keep the lights on.
And a 2017 study highlighted just how much power we can harness from the stronger winds roaring across the oceans. WindFloat should be just the start in a boom in floating wind farms and electricity generation.