Monday, October 02, 2006

"ENERGY: Turbines blowin' in the wind 100 miles offshore"

"You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows," Bob Dylan sang in "Subterranean Homesick Blues." That sentiment rings especially true if your turbine is blowin' in the wind more than 100 miles offshore, because there the breeze is always stiff. Now a designer of offshore drilling rigs for oil companies at MIT has validated the blueprints for an extra-large, 5-megawatt floating wind turbine with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Wind farms began on land, as eyesores familiar to anyone who drives much (for instance, from Los Angeles to Palm Springs). But the lack of constant wind onshore and the steady stream of complaints from the public have prompted a migration offshore. The public continues to complain about wind farms when they are visible from shore, prompting the newer projects to move even farther out. Last month, a consortium including oil company Talisman Energy Inc. and Scottish and Southern Energy began testing a 5-MW wind turbine almost 10 miles off the coast of Moray Firth, Scotland, where at 150 feet it is shallow enough to utilize an underwater foundation. For the United States, the engineers propose abandoning traditional rigid attachments to the ocean bottom, freeing the floating wind turbines to be located on the high seas, where the wind blows hardest. The Scottish project, if successful, will be a farm of 200 turbines. The U.S. plan is to up the ante by designing a farm twice as big--400 turbines, to power about 100,000 homes--located 100 miles off the New England coast.