Is it a lot of hot air, or can it really be done?
What happens when a big storm or hurricane hits it, and how will it impact bird migratory routes?
All those concerns aside, Norway’s Wind Catching Systems (WCS) says its colossal, 1,000-ft. high, floating wind turbine array will generate five times the annual energy of the world’s biggest single turbines – while reducing costs enough to be immediately competitive with grid prices, NewAtlas.com reported.
Standing as tall as the circuit height for small airplanes — which is mighty tall — these mammoth Windcatcher grids would deploy multiple smaller turbines in a staggered formation atop a floating platform moored to the ocean floor, reportedly using established practices from the oil and gas industry.
Just one of these arrays, says WCS, could offer double the swept area of the world’s biggest conventional wind turbines – the 15 MW Vestas V236 – and its smaller rotors could perform much better in wind speeds over 40 to 43 km/h (25 to 27 mph), when larger turbines tend to start pitching their blades to avoid damage.
The overall effect, says WCS, is a 500% boost in annual energy output, with each array making enough power to run 80,000 European homes.
It’s an impressive claim from the company, which was founded in 2017.
Ole Heggheim, Chief Executive Officer of Wind Catching Systems, said: “Our goal is to enable offshore wind operators and developers to produce electricity at a cost that competes with other energy sources, without subsidies.”
With its array of small turbines, the floating windcatcher eliminates the need for a massive single component. This mean that the turbines will be easier to manufacture, install and maintain — yet another bold claim.
Once the large floating platform is deployed, the installation and maintenance work can largely be conducted on site without the need for specialist cranes or vessels, the company said.
WCS also claims that a windcatcher will see a 50-year service life, unlike the 30-year lifetime of a conventional wind turbine.
The company says it’s ready to start delivering offshore wind power on debut at grid parity – meaning at a levelized cost of energy (LCOE, taking capital costs into account) matching or beating the price of grid power.
In Norway and the USA, that currently averages out at about US$105 per megawatt-hour.
The US Energy Information Administration currently projects the capacity-weighted LCOE of new offshore wind assets coming online in 2026 to average $115.04 per megawatt-hour, with some regions capable of getting that under US$100.
So this will still be a relatively expensive way to generate electricity, especially compared to land-based wind and solar, but it could still be a cost saver for offshore wind.
WCS says its projections are based on an initial installation size that it believes will become significantly more economical as it scales up.
The company has the backing of investment companies North Energy and Ferd, and has developed the technology in conjunction with offshore wind supplier Aibel and the IFE Institute for Energy Technology.
While no one has ever attempted such a massive ocean structure — think Eiffel Tower in Paris, which is 300 metres in height (Windcatchers would stand at 324 metres) — an endeavor of this magnitude would remain a very tall task, indeed.
Would it withstand a hurricane or freak storm, or even rough seas? Would these blades chop up sea birds at an alarming rate?
These and other questions loom large.
The company has not yet released further details about prototypes or first installations.
Sources: NewAtlas.com, DesignBoom.com, EnergyLiveNews.com, MyModernMet.com