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Dreaming big in offshore wind, inspired by sycamore seeds

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Most of the new wind turbine designs you see floating around the tech blogosphere are oriented toward small backyard turbines, in the tens or hundreds of kW range.  So it was kind of a thrill to see this new design for a 10MW offshore turbine, partly inspired by a spinning sycamore seed:

Aerogenerator X concept

Aerogenerator X concept

After an 18-month feasibility study funded by a consortium of energy companies and the UK government, new funding and agreements are moving the project forward, with the goal of building a full-scale test version of the design by 2013 or 2014.  The current version is over 900 feet across, but half the height of vertical turbines (which would have the benefit of creating a markedly lower visual profile from shore, and even being “over the horizon” in many more near-shore locations).  The power-generating equipment sits at the bottom, rather than the top as in a tower, greatly reducing both the cost and complications of servicing. The horizontal design reduces pressure on the blades (which rotate just 3 times per minute), thus breaking through a stress barrier that will likely limit traditional turbine designs from moving much past the currently-envisioned 5MW size.  The drawback is that the lower profile will not access higher wind speeds at greater heights.

Here at AEI, we have great hopes for offshore wind, which moves the noise far from people’s homes, while tapping into a very consistent wind resource.  It’s not clear from the current news reports whether this design can be adapted to our ideal long-term scenario of floating turbine platforms (which allow deployment farther offshore in higher winds, and also greatly reduce the amount of loud construction noise, which is the primary impact off offshore wind on ocean acoustic ecology.) New conceptual technologies should always be treated as speculative, but this one does seem to be moving forward at a pretty good clip.  For more info:
Here’s the company press release, which has the most detail
And here are three blog reports on the announcement.

One Response to “Dreaming big in offshore wind, inspired by sycamore seeds”

  1. » Blog Archive » Wind turbine manufacturers aim to reduce noise Says:

    […] a hopeful note is struck by a slew of ongoing research and development efforts on turbine designs very different than the current giant rotors; it remains to be seen whether any of these will become […]