Monday, May 26, 2008

Floating wind technology - crazy or just mad?

StatoilHydro has just announced that it plans to spend MMNOK 400 on a floating 2.3 MW wind turbine prototype to demonstrate the potential to build windfarms in water which would otherwise be too deep.

Now, there's a couple of things here. Redfield's experience in wind turbine tower construction tells us that the turbine nacelle is extremely sensitive to its orientation. The tolerance within which turbine towers must be delivered is extremely tight, because we understand that the turbine bearings would wear irregularly causing early and expensive failure if the turbine nacelle was not absolutely horizontal in space. So we're worried that it will be very hard to orientate the nacelle with the accuracy and stability required.

Even if you can achieve this stability, that assumes that the tower doesn't move at all. We're not sure that's realistic in a 65m tower (with a 100m spar anchor). Can bearings be developed which can tolerate the accelerations at the top of a tower like this? I'm going to try to do some sums on this, as I suspect the g forces may well be much more than bearings can take.

More apocryphally, at last week's All-Energy exhibition, I noticed that StatoilHydro couldn't even get their lovely shiny model of an offshore wind farm to work properly (half of the lights and turbines weren't working). Now, if you can't even get the model to work...

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