Nature and Biodiversity

The world's first floating wind farm will power 20,000 homes

A general view of the DanTysk wind farm, 90 kilometres west of Esbjerg, Denmark, September 21, 2016. Picture taken September 21, 2016. To match EUROPE-OFFSHORE/WINDPOWER  REUTERS/Nikolaj Skydsgaard - RTX2TXDB

The new Hywind turbines will provide power for 20,000 homes Image: REUTERS/Nikolaj Skydsgaard

Callum Brodie
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The world’s first full-scale floating wind farm is being moved into position 15 miles off the north-east coast of Scotland.

Wind power has been embraced by the Celtic country, and once complete the new Hywind turbines will provide power for 20,000 homes.

Scotland’s reliance on wind power has grown in recent years Image: ATLAS

Those running the $250m project have described it as “a game-changer” that will bring down energy costs.

Unlike conventional bottom-standing turbines, these can be situated in areas of deep water where the wind is typically stronger and more consistent.

In numbers

Each of the five giant towers, including the blades, stand at a whopping 175 meters – almost twice the height of Big Ben.

The towers weigh in at 11,500 tonnes each. When added together, that’s equivalent to twice the weight of the Statue of Liberty.

The box behind the blades – the nacelle – could hold two double-decker buses, while the 75-metre blades are longer than the wingspan of a 747 aircraft.

Having been assembled in a Norwegian fjord, the operation to shift these enormous structures has been a strategic minefield involving remote-controlled submarines to check for obstacles.

Tug boats equipped with thick cables have been used to move the Hywind towers Image: Bloomberg via Getty

The benefits

There are many reasons why floating wind farms are seen as having a bright future as a source of renewable energy.

Plans to construct wind turbines on land are often met with opposition by community groups who argue that they are a blight on the landscape. Stationing turbines offshore appeases campaigners.

Floating wind farms can be located to avoid disrupting fishing and shipping lanes. And positioning these turbines further out to sea helps protect seabird nesting sites.

These turbines operate in depths of more than 100 metres, which means they could potentially be used in waters previously thought too deep for traditional offshore wind farms.

However, arguably the biggest incentive is to do with cost savings.

The price of energy from bottom-standing offshore wind farms has fallen 32% in the past five years. Another big drop is expected, making offshore wind a much cheaper option than new nuclear power.

Leif Delp, Hywind project director at manufacturer Statoil, believes floating wind farms will help lower costs yet further. He says: “It’s a game-changer for floating wind power and we are sure it will help bring costs down.”

Many people view onshore wind farms as an eyesore. Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Wind farms – floating or otherwise – are one of the most effective ways of producing clean energy.

They can also play a role in helping countries fulfil their commitments under the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change.

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