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Novel technology dubbed 'new frontier' by experts could unlock power of mega wind turbines: 'It's essential'

"The wind resources out there are quite remarkable."

"The wind resources out there are quite remarkable."

Photo Credit: iStock

The "new frontier" of renewable energy is the surface of the ocean, as floating offshore wind farms are set to make a major surge, according to some experts.

While the majority of current offshore wind development consists of turbines that are anchored to the seabed, this strategy comes with some drawbacks, as the Financial Times reports. Fixed-in-place turbines are too difficult to install at depths greater than around 200 feet, meaning that they must be placed fairly close to the land. As a result, the turbines can't take advantage of the higher wind speeds farther out at sea, and they are already competing for real estate.

"There also isn't much acreage left for fixed-bottom. Floating will be the new era," Halfdan Brustad, vice president for UK renewables at energy company Equinor, told the Financial Times.

Floating turbines, on the other hand, are generally more expensive to install but have the potential to generate significantly more energy. And there is no shortage of space in the open ocean.

The Financial Times spoke to one wind energy developer, Dan Jackson, a former oil and gas industry engineer who wants to put hundreds of floating turbines off the Scottish coast, in the North Sea. "The wind resources out there are quite remarkable," Jackson said. His company, Cerulean Winds, plans to develop a network of three connected floating wind farms, with the first up and running by 2028, reports the Times.

If successful, Cerulean's wind farm network would be one of the UK's first large-scale, commercial floating offshore wind farms. 

When speaking about leasing the UK seabed for wind projects, Dan Labbad, chief executive of The Crown Estate, said: "Floating offshore wind is a new frontier. … We're trying to de-risk this as much as possible for developers. It's essential that we maintain the UK's position at the forefront globally in this area."

Elsewhere in the world, floating offshore wind farms have already started to crop up. The world's largest, in Norway, consists of 11 turbines about 87 miles off the coast.  

That project was developed by Equinor, which also has plans to turn two New York ports — the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal and the Port of Albany — into large-scale offshore wind facilities.

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