60-Second Earth

Floating Wind Turbines Promise Clean Power

Ocean-based wind turbines don't need to be firmly anchored to the seafloor, according to a new study. David Biello reports, with narration by Christie Nicholson

Strong sea breezes offer one of the best options for generating electricity from the wind. And here's the bonus: since humans like to cluster on the coast, offshore wind tends to reach places that need more electricity.

But building a massive turbine and anchoring it firmly to the seafloor is expensive. So wind power is restricted to shallow seas. Hence, the   scarcity of offshore wind turbines around the world—and its complete absence so far from U.S. waters.

Naval architects writing in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy aim to change that. After testing options in a wave tank, they found that floating platforms can support turbines capable of generating five megawatts of power. This is no mean feat considering such turbines are 70 meters tall and have blades the size of a football field.

The architects current platform relies, in essence, on three floating legs—much like a deepwater oil production platform.

But unlike an oil rig, when a wind turbine goes bad, it just adds wreckage to the seafloor, instead of fouling local waters with oil. Perhaps offshore wind is the safer use of coastal resources.

—David Biello, with narration by Christie Nicholson

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