The talk of the offshore wind community is the success of Seattle-based Principle Power’s two-megawatt WindFloat floating turbines off the coast of Portugal and Norway-based StatOil’s (NYSE:STO) three-megawatt Hywind floating turbines to be used for the proposed twelve-megawatt Gulf of Maine project.
Most of the presentations and many of the conversations during the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Offshore WindPower 2012 included excitement about the deep-water technology.
Several existing technologies continue to compete for prominence and innovators are proposing new solutions. In the hallways of the Virginia Beach Convention Center, GTM heard talk about venerable multinational energy power Alstom (EPA:ALO) developing floaters and an old-school independent developer looking to take the technology to Hawaii.
Newcomer PelaStar’s innovative approach is rumored to be winning attention in the U.K., where there are nearly two gigawatts of installed offshore capacity and they are building so fast they have exhausted the supply chain. The U.K.’s next step will be to move into deeper waters where floating technology will lead the way toward the national goal of fifteen gigawatts by 2020.
The U.S. DOE, NREL and AWEA are leading a serious effort, according to National Wind Technology Center Principal Engineer Walt Musial, to establish standards for floating technology.
Floating wind promises to be the answer to harvesting wind off the Pacific coast where the continental shelf is too deep for the traditional seabed-supported offshore wind that is being planned along the Eastern seaboard to be economically viable. DOE is said to be ready to launch pilot projects off the California and Pacific Northwest coasts any moment.
The takeaway is clear: What was a slightly unbelievable hypothesis as recently as two years ago is now the future of wind.