Over the last few decades, wind power has become one of the most important sources of renewable energy globally. This development has resulted in larger and more efficient wind turbines. Still, one of the disadvantages of wind power is the incontrollable supply of wind which results in relatively low utilization factors and the need for building expensive backup systems to cover situations without sufficient wind.
To mitigate this disadvantage, the wind industry is gradually moving its operation to offshore locations. This way, both the generally higher wind intensities as well as more stable wind conditions may be utilized for more profitable power production. In addition, when locating wind mills offshore, any negative public sentiment may be reduced as problems with the visual and noise impression is significantly reduced.
Today, building traditional mono towers with top mounted wind turbines is becoming what can be described as proven technology even if these offshore wind farms are still more expensive to build and operate than traditional land based systems. The maximum depth at which such offshore wind turbines may be constructed is normally limited to approximately 30 meters. Going beyond 50 meters of water depth it is envisaged that other solutions than traditionally sea bed mounted mono-towers need to be developed.
Hence, different concepts for floating wind turbines are currently being developed in order to facilitate wind farms in locations where the water depth is too deep or to place the turbines even further from shore to lessen even further any negative footprint. Even if still in its infancy, floating wind turbines are often seen as relevant in depths beyond 100 meters as substructures need to be allowed sufficient free space at low tides. This leaves a gap between 50 and 100 meters of water depth in addition to the fact, that so far, these floating designs have proven prohibitively expensive to install as well as challenging to service in situations of strong wind and high waves. The limited space available also put severe limitations as to the amount of equipment any service personnel can take on board when servicing any offshore wind turbine leaving the whole offshore wind industry with several challenges still to overcome – until today.
This alluring simple concept promoted by BlackRockWind, Ltd holds the promise of dramatically changing this situation and mitigates the traditional shortcomings of floating offshore wind solutions.