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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Floating Windmills/Emerging Science Note

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth's Jessica Ilyse Smith reports that researchers are working on wind turbines that will float on water. Modeled on deep-sea oil rigs the floating windmills will be able to harness the strong, consistent wind far out at sea.


GELLERMAN: Just ahead, One doctor’s prescription to save the planet from nuclear disaster. But first this note on emerging science from Jessica Ilyse Smith.

SMITH: Offshore wind energy projects have created a gale of controversy in the United States. Opponents scream, ‘Not in My Back Yard’ to the thought of blocked ocean views. But, what if wind turbines were placed beyond the point of visibility—well past any of our backyards?

Research is now underway to create floating wind turbines. They’ll sit on buoy-like platforms, which are anchored to the sea floor and stabilized with taut chains—a technology loosely based on offshore oilrigs. The turbines will ferry electricity to shore through cables designed for undersea use. These structures are called ‘floaters,’ and they must withstand the nastiest weather, from Nor’easters to hurricanes to massive waves.

Blue H Technologies from the Netherlands recently put a scaled version of a floating turbine in the Mediterranean Sea. And, the Norwegian oil-and-gas giant, StatoilHydro, will drop a model off the coast of Norway. These tests will determine if floating wind turbines can compete in the renewable energy market.

Floaters have advantages over fixed-bottom turbines. A major benefit is the greater flexibility in their location. This is important since the wind is stronger and more consistent farther out at sea. Floaters are manufactured on land and towed out to the ocean, with fewer environmental impacts associated with construction.

Alternative energy experts say, the research is promising and could prove to be the current of the future.

That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Jessica Ilyse Smith.



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