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The wild new tech coming to offshore wind

The wild new tech coming to offshore wind

The wild new tech coming to offshore wind

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The solution, according to Weinstein, is to build floating turbines. Offshore wind power follows a progression that oil and gas companies charted with drilling rigs: moving from onshore to offshore to floating installations, Weinstein said.

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Weinstein was involved in some of the world’s first floating wind power demonstration projects, including a 50 megawatt installation in Scotland. In total, about 125 megawatts of demonstration projects have been installed worldwide and another 125 megawatts are under construction.

And the pipeline is growing rapidly. In total, more than 60 gigawatts of offshore wind projects around the world are in the planning stages, with South Korea, the UK, Australia and Brazil among the top countries in terms of planned capacity.

This illustration depicts six offshore wind turbines. The three on the left are traditional fixed foundations, while the three on the right are floating models.

JOSHUA BAUER, NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LABORATORY

A milestone and what’s next

Now California is joining the list of governments getting into the floating wind farm game.

The state has auctioned off 370,000 acres of ocean, divided into five sites spread over two areas off the California coast. The sites are in water up to 1,300 meters deep and will require floating wind technology. My colleague James Temple posted a story diving into the auction earlier this week.

Companies are bidding on sites that could collectively house enough wind turbines to generate up to 4.5 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 1.5 million homes. In total, the sites sold for $757 million, with the largest site reaching nearly $174 million.

The auction represents a new phase for floating offshore wind. Less than a decade ago, Weinstein told me at EmTech, people didn’t take technology seriously when it came up with plans to build farms in the state. “People looked at me and said, ‘You must be crazy, why are you doing this, it won’t work’,” she said.

Now companies could start building floating wind farms in the United States in earnest. But the auction is only one step in a series of many steps between design and power generation. Companies have years of planning and construction before starting to generate electricity from sites. Obtaining permits alone could take five to seven years.

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