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Print 40 comment(s) - last by blowfish.. on Aug 10 at 7:58 PM

The size demands an entirely new offshore wind design

A majority of the wind farms in the United States use 2.5 megawatt wind turbines, and recent technology has introduced even larger turbines at 5 megawatts. Europe, on the other hand, is racing ahead of the game with the largest wind turbine yet - 10 megawatts. And it may be changing the way wind turbines are designed altogether.  

Europe has seen a lot of advantages to building larger wind turbines, such as avoiding environmental issues by using larger turbines in deeper waters. There is less of a risk of encountering environmental problems the further offshore the turbines are located. Europe seems to build larger turbines as the water grows deeper, as well. 

Another advantage to building larger turbines is the cost. The cost per megawatt decreases as the the size of the wind turbine increases, which is a helpful advantage when building a wind turbine that is equivalent to a 30 story building in size. 

The 533 foot tall wind turbine was designed by Sway, a Norwegian turbine developer, and will have 476 foot long blades. Sway has been working on the design since 2004, but the company is not working on Europe's largest turbine alone. It is partnering with Norwegian state utility Enova and UK-based Clipper Marine to bring the 10 megawatt monster turbine to life.

The giant turbine certainly dwarfs the 2.5 megawatt and the newer 5 megawatt turbines being used now. In fact, it is so large that it requires a whole new offshore wind design

The new design does not attach the wind turbine to the sea floor like smaller models. This 10 megawatt turbine, while giant in size, will be lightweight enough to "sway" around a fixed base and float in the ocean. It also has the ability to swivel on this base to produce energy when the direction of the wind changes. 

"This is pioneering stuff," said Feargal Brennan, head of offshore, process and energy engineering at Cranfield University. "I believe 10MW turbines are right on the limit of our knowledge; they may even prove to be over the limit. We may find that they work for several years and then start to develop problems. Will 10MW turbines still be working after 10, 15, 20 years of operation?"

In an attempt to answer that question, developers will use a smaller turbine to test the fixed base design. This "smaller" turbine will be 5 megawatts, which is still large in terms of what is being used today. If the test proves that this new system will work for the larger 10 megawatt wind turbine, this could be a new beginning for offshore wind energy. These systems would be far enough off shore to where they would not be noticed from land, send electricity to land through cable lines at the sea floor, just like internet cables. 

While Sway, Clipper Marine and Enova are on their way with this development, they're not the only ones. According to other reports, British company Wind Power Limited has recently exposed the details its new 10 megawatt offshore wind generator, called Aerogenerator X. This unit is expected to reach completion by 2013 or 2014, and will generate enough electricity for 5,000 - 10,000 homes. 



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I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By corduroygt on 8/9/2010 7:10:39 AM , Rating: 3
Logic dictates anything that's on the open sea and exposed to the elements will have a high maintenance cost, and second, the power it adds to the grid will only be a fraction of what it generates due to the necessity of running long power cable underwater.




RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By MonkeyPaw on 8/9/2010 7:44:19 AM , Rating: 5
So they are building them way out to sea so people don't complain. Wait, are we talking about wind turbines or oil rigs? It's just sad how everyone wants the benefits of energy, but no one wants to deal with the reality of where that energy comes from. If I were a whale, I'd be hiring a lawyer.


RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By quiksilvr on 8/9/10, Rating: -1
By Quadrillity on 8/9/2010 8:53:35 AM , Rating: 5
I know irony is hard to pick up in written text sometimes, but geez man; if it was a snake you would already have fang marks in ya...


RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By FITCamaro on 8/9/10, Rating: -1
RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By Flunk on 8/9/2010 8:59:49 AM , Rating: 2
I hope you're not serious, that's completely impossible. How are wind turbines going to fly? The worst that would happen is that they would get detached and wash up on shore or be lost in the deep sea forever.


RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By FITCamaro on 8/9/2010 9:21:02 AM , Rating: 1
No I did not mean fly literally.

But would it be so inconceivable for something with three 146 foot blades(or wings) to be ripped off its base in extremely high winds and become airborne? They said these things are being built light.


By Smilin on 8/9/2010 9:34:57 AM , Rating: 4
It may move but it's going to be floating when it hits shore, not flying.

Sure it's got big wings on it but it was never meant to fly so the lift to weight ratio isn't going to be very high.

Plus you would have to orient it such that those wings actually produced vertical force. Even the most high performance aircraft is going to drop like a rock if you just put it into a tumble.

So given poor lift control, poor lift to weight, you're only left with sheer wind velocity to offset. Problem there is it would only be helpful while this thing was stationary. If it becomes airborn (sorry still chuckling) then the moment it gains groundspeed it loses airspeed. A kite only flies while it is held stationary against the wind.

I think the best case for the flying scenario would be to lose a blade from the rest of the turbine. A single blade starting say 300 feet off the ground might make it a thousand feet downwind before it touched water (thereby stopping all lift as flow on one side of the wing stops).


By Hare on 8/9/2010 1:21:09 PM , Rating: 4
Look at the thing. Did you learn physics from comic books? Are you seriously suggesting that an object that narrow wouldn't just tilt to a position where wind resistance would be minimal (definately small enough that the weight of the thing would prevent any rapid movement). If that thing floats then sure it could tip over in theory but after it's in the water what on earth would cause it to "fly" literally or not. Sounds pretty far fetched.


RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By mcnabney on 8/9/2010 1:27:25 PM , Rating: 2
Windmills do not work that!

A complete failure would result in the turbine, stand, and rotors falling flat on the ocean surface and either sinking (most likely) or possibly floating if everything is sealed and the air inside the rotors and stand can assist in bouyancy.

Think of them as a large tree. In a wind storm a large tree might fall over, but only in movies about tornadoes do they go flying off to Oz.


RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By FITCamaro on 8/9/2010 1:42:28 PM , Rating: 2
I've seen a canoe fly in a tropical storm. Don't tell me something far larger with more surface area can't catch enough wind to move quickly.

Again. Where did I say it would? I merely just didn't discount the possibility. I sure wouldn't want these put off the coast of Miami.


By GaryJohnson on 8/9/2010 3:00:14 PM , Rating: 2
By your logic we should ground all aircraft on the planet because they can crash.


RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By Taft12 on 8/9/2010 1:27:20 PM , Rating: 1
And work 100% of the time.

What about when the non-renewables run out?


By FITCamaro on 8/9/2010 1:39:59 PM , Rating: 4
Nuclear is not going to run out. Not in an amount of time that matters.


By blowfish on 8/10/2010 7:58:33 PM , Rating: 1
I think you got them there, Fit! So easy, candy from a baby comes to mind.


RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By Smilin on 8/9/2010 9:26:12 AM , Rating: 3
Dude this thing spews 1000 one dollar bills every hour with no fuel costs. How many hours are there in a year?

How often does this thing need maintenance per year?

Cheap power will be about $1million per megawatt. Expensive but still affordable is $2million per megatwatt. If this is anything less than a $20 million installation it's fine. In fact if it's $20mil it would be paid off in less than 3 years.

As for maintenance: not much more beyond land. These things are going to run without very much need for maintenance to begin with. The only thing different about sea based is salt in the atmosphere (up to about 3k feet) but having been through naval aviation corrosion school I can tell you that's easily manageable. For this particular application they have this magical stuff they use called "paint".

The long cable will indeed reduce the power to a fraction of what it should be... a fraction like 9/10...oooh. Once stepped up to transmission voltages the resistance is going to be low. The cost for transmission is so low that here in the US we'll often buy power from plants other than our nearest to get a better rate.

Since they ARE installing it I'm betting the math adds up despite what your logic may say.


RE: I seriously doubt this is going to be cheap
By corduroygt on 8/9/2010 9:46:25 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
Since they ARE installing it I'm betting the math adds up despite what your logic may say.

It's easy to make math add up when you can add any number to the equation, called taxpayer subsidies.


By nafhan on 8/9/2010 10:25:10 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, considering the math doesn't add up for currently installed wind turbines, you're exactly right. It doesn't need to be cost efficient when you can get subsidies to pay the difference.


By BZDTemp on 8/9/2010 4:07:05 PM , Rating: 1
It may surprise you but there is a world outside the US and it's certainly not like wind turbines are getting a free ride everywhere. Besides in some sense one could claim a lot of the military costs are really the government subsidizing oil and I'm yet to anyone go to war over the wind. Until that happen I think knocking wind power because of some tax rules seems a little simplistic.


By GTVic on 8/9/2010 1:49:04 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure they forgot to do a cost analysis. Good thing you are on top of this...


Umm
By AssBall on 8/9/2010 7:11:12 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
These systems would be far enough off shore to where they would not be noticed from land, send electricity to land through cable lines at the sea floor, just like internet cables.


Not really a complete sentence, but whatever. Internet cables? Okay...

quote:
Europe has seen a lot of advantages to building larger wind turbines, such as avoiding environmental issues by using larger turbines in deeper waters. There is less of a risk of encountering environmental problems the further offshore the turbines are located. Europe seems to build larger turbines as the water grows deeper, as well.


Ummm...try this maybe? Europe likes big turbines offshore in deep waters because they avoid environmental problems. Is that not about 300% more clear and concise than the redundant dribble of that paragraph?




RE: Umm
By FITCamaro on 8/9/10, Rating: 0
RE: Umm
By HotFoot on 8/9/2010 10:06:37 AM , Rating: 2
You can keep wining about it for another 3-4 years or... just go read something else. By now there's been about a mile of text complaining about "journalism" on a blog website. This isn't Reuters.


RE: Umm
By 91TTZ on 8/9/2010 10:37:04 AM , Rating: 1
He's talking about AssBall.


RE: Umm
By NullSubroutine on 8/9/2010 12:16:34 PM , Rating: 2
He is talking about the broken record FITCarmaro, who constantly complains about what is written, how it is written, or in some other way finds a way to bitch...continuously. While he sometimes has a point and other times makes mountains of mole hills, his repetitiveness has eclipsed the annoyance of some of the articles, with his own complaints. You can only hear complaints so many time before they get as annoying as the source of the complaint itself.

(yes, the repetitiveness and complaint of my message is intentional)


RE: Umm
By FITCamaro on 8/9/2010 1:51:31 PM , Rating: 2
I complain because the quality used to be better. If I had your attitude, I'd be moving to another country since I am even more disgusted with my government than with the half-@ssed articles or overly biased nature of them on this site. They're not bad when things are spelled right and they're free of bias. But anything written by Jason or that new Tiffany girl on "green" tech is usually soaked in bias. This article was not. It was just poorly written.

But if you don't like my comments, don't read them.


RE: Umm
By NullSubroutine on 8/10/10, Rating: 0
RE: Umm
By AssBall on 8/10/2010 8:36:57 AM , Rating: 2
Not really. Repetition shows determination, which is how most things get done. If at first you don't succeed...


underwater
By Murloc on 8/9/2010 8:15:48 AM , Rating: 2
underwater swivel?
It won't work that well




RE: underwater
By Curelom on 8/9/2010 10:46:21 AM , Rating: 2
I'd hate to be one of the maintenance workers on one of these things. Can you imagine what the sway would be like 400 feet up in the air? You'd have to have a strong stomach.


RE: underwater
By mcnabney on 8/9/2010 1:30:35 PM , Rating: 2
I would be most worried about resonating wind bursts causing the entire tower to oscilate. A solid grounding structure prevents that, but being able to bob in the ocean will allow resonating motion at numerous frequencies.


RE: underwater
By Paj on 8/9/2010 11:55:52 AM , Rating: 2
Can't be more complicated than an oil rig I would imagine.


swells?
By Quadrillity on 8/9/2010 11:33:34 AM , Rating: 2
Does anyone happen to know how high an average ocean swell (including bad storms) might be for that area? ~50 ft of clearance from blade tip to water doesn't seem like that much.




RE: swells?
By BZDTemp on 8/9/2010 4:16:13 PM , Rating: 1
A valid point.

Not sure where they build the thing but I of the coast of Norway which should me hardly any tidal effects and while the weather can get pretty wild I'd think the 50+ feet should be fine. Normally wind turbines shut down if there is a storm and I'm sure they'll make sure it stops with no wings pointing straight down meaning a lot more than 50+ feet of clearance.


RE: swells?
By Quadrillity on 8/10/2010 8:40:57 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah that's kinda what I thought also. I have seen earlier designs that stack the blades up and anchor them to the mast during extreme weather. I'm certainly no engineer, but I can't see why vertical blades aren't the overall best method for almost any type of deployment.


SI please
By semo on 8/9/2010 12:34:24 PM , Rating: 2
Please include SI in your technical articles and when trying to describe engineering projects.




RE: SI please
By pjpizza on 8/9/2010 2:04:45 PM , Rating: 2
Please include SI... (?)

Please, why? Why something so trivial, when it's so easy to convert?

If you are an engineer (or, ehem, a good engineer), you know how to stay in the same units consistently, which is what matters.


By corduroygt on 8/9/2010 7:10:40 AM , Rating: 2
Logic dictates anything that's on the open sea and exposed to the elements will have a high maintenance cost, and second, the power it adds to the grid will only be a fraction of what it generates due to the necessity of running long power cable underwater.




It would be funny if...
By stlrenegade on 8/9/2010 1:54:41 PM , Rating: 2
while digging on the sea floor to attach the anchor piece, they strike oil and it flows into the ocean.




By BZDTemp on 8/9/2010 4:25:17 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure what sort of RPM they plan for but just imagine the forces working on those wings and the speed of the wing tips :-)




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