Casting Wind Turbines Out To Sea

   < < Go Back
from Bloomberg Businessweek,

There’s roughly enough wind off the West Coast to power all of the U.S.

Wind speeds are faster and more consistent at sea than on land. Companies seeking to take advantage of that were limited by the need to attach turbines to the ocean floor. Principle Power’s technology removes that constraint. It’s “what happened in the oil and gas industry back in the ’70s, when it moved from fixed foundations to floating foundations,” Weinstein says.

Fixed-foundation turbines require more permits. They’re also more likely to incite protests.

Principle installed a floating 2Mw turbine built by Vestas (VWS:GR) about 3 miles off the coast of Portugal in 2011, a project that may reach a total capacity of 150Mw. The company is also pursuing deals in the U.K. and Asia. The Oregon wind farm, with an estimated cost of $200 million, will consist of five 6Mw Siemens (SI) turbines about 15 miles off the coast and is expected to be hooked up to the grid via an underwater cable in 2017.

Walt Musial, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, estimates that there’s more than 900 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity along the Pacific coast of the U.S. That’s about the same as the country’s installed power capacity. The cost of deploying fixed-bottom turbines is about $4 or $5 per megawatt-hour, he says, vs. $6 per megawatt-hour for floating systems. The gap may eventually disappear. “We’re talking about single-unit prototypes that are still very early-stage,” Musial says. “It’s like the first flat-screen TV. It’s very expensive to build the first one.”

More From Bloomberg Businessweek: