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Floating Wind Turbines on the High Seas Could Produce Massive Amounts of Power

Wind power's potential is far greater if turbines are placed in the open ocean, where winds rebound more quickly

4 min read
A photo shows several of Statoil's floating wind turbines surrounded by ships at dusk.
Norwegian oil and gas giant Statoil positions 6-megawatt turbines off the coast of Scotland for the world's first floating wind farm.
Photo: Roar Lindefjeld/Woldcam/Statoil

The world’s first offshore wind farm employing floating turbines is taking shape 25 kilometers off the Scottish coast and expected to begin operating by the end of this year. New research by atmospheric scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. suggests that the ultimate destination for such floating wind farms could be hundreds of kilometers out in the open ocean. The simulations, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that winds over the open ocean have far greater staying power than those over land.

Wind power generation is obviously contingent on how fast and how often winds blow. But only over the past decade have scientists and wind farm developers recognized that the winds measured prior to erecting turbines may not endure. For one thing, dense arrays of wind turbines act as a drag on the wind, depleting local or even regional wind resources. 

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Greg Mably


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