Jeff Masters Weather Blog

The wind turbines that can float » Yale Climate Connections

Strong winds blow over the ocean. But these winds are still a relatively untapped source of energy — in part because of how most offshore wind turbines are built.

“The vast majority of offshore wind that’s been deployed throughout the world to date is fixed-bottom technology,” says Jocelyn Brown-Saracino of the U.S. Department of Energy.

That means a rigid connection anchors the wind turbine to the sea floor. So the design only works in shallower waters.

To capture energy from winds over the deep ocean, the industry must build turbines that float on the water.

“These systems are really marvels of engineering,” Brown-Saracino says.

A few floating wind turbines have been built in Europe, but the technology remains expensive.

So the Department of Energy has set a goal of reducing the cost of floating offshore wind energy by 70% by the year 2035.

To make that happen, the U.S. needs to invest in research, scale up manufacturing and supply chains, and build new electrical transmission lines.

But Brown-Saracino says the promise of floating offshore wind is exciting.

“We have the potential to stand up a new clean energy industry in the United States,” she says.

And that industry could also help reduce global warming.

Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman/ChavoBart Digital Media

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