Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil has received all necessary approvals from the Scottish government to install a 30 megawatt floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland. The pilot project, named Hywind Scotland floating wind farm, will consist of five turbines, which, once operational, will be capable of providing energy to almost 20,000 homes. This will be the first floating wind farm in the UK and the largest in the world. Its success will determine the future of offshore wind turbines as a viable renewable energy source.
Scotland is a natural host for such a project. Winds are steady and very strong, enabling generation of significant energy from wind turbines. Last year, more than 11,000 gigawatt hours of energy was harvested from wind, satisfying as much as one-third of Scotland’s energy consumption.
Unlike traditional wind turbines, the floating turbines are not anchored to the ocean floor, but instead are connected to each other via cables which are affixed to the sea floor with a three-point mooring system. This construction design makes them less expensive, adding to the net energy savings. Power is then carried to the shore via a series of cables.
Floating windfarms are at the leading edge of offshore energy development. Experts predict that it will decades before this technology becomes mainstream. Nevertheless, Statoil hopes to prove the feasibility of the technology as a commercial scale solution to reducing energy dependency.
Statoil is the largest company working to develop and launch wind turbine technologies, but it is not alone. Energy development companies such as Blue H Technologies, a new company based in the Netherlands is also working on the technology. This is not Statoil’s first foray in offshore wind technology. They developed a 2.3 megawatt deep water floating turbine off the coast of Norway in 2009.