Claim: Floating Wind Turbines Could Save Us from Climate Change

Artist impression of the floating turbine. Author Eric Worrall. NY Times has photographs of the prototype

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

At €125 million per floating turbine, vs €20 million for a fixed offshore turbine, the new technology still “has a long way to go on the economics”. But people are getting excited, and EU cash is pouring into this expensive new wind power scheme.

A New Weapon Against Climate Change May Float

The wind power industry sees an opportunity in allowing windmills to be pushed into deeper water.

By Stanley Reed

This article is part of a special report on Climate Solutions.

FERROL, Spain — A strange-looking contraption that could represent a new frontier in clean energy wallowed in the water alongside a coal dock here in a bay in northwest Spain.

This floating windmill with a tower about 600 feet high was sheltering in the harbor. After waiting out the rough winter seas and the disruption from the coronavirus pandemic, it was towed in late May to join two others anchored in the Atlantic in 330 feet of water 11 miles off Viana do Castelo on the northwest coast of Portugal.

Mr. Pinheiro’s machine floats on three partly submerged columns, each about 100 feet long. Steel catwalks bridge the gaps between the giant cylinders. Sensors signal to pumps to add or remove water from the columns to keep the platform at the right level for optimal wind generation. In a gentle sea in the bay, the vessel, which weighs thousands of tons, seemed remarkably stable.

WindFloat, whose cost was pegged in 2018 at 125 million euros, or about $137 million today, is majority owned by EDP Renewables. About €60 million came through a loan by the European Investment Bank, a wing of the European Union, which supports what it considers to be promising renewable technologies.

By comparison, turbines of similar size installed on the sea bottom cost around €20 million each when they are used in large facilities in which the costs can be spread among scores of machines. The new technology still “has a long way to go on the economics,” said Alexander Flotre, an analyst at Rystad Energy, a market research firm.

Mr. Metelo said that wind farms of this size would likely generate electricity at a cost of around €200 per megawatt-hour, a wholesale power measure, over their lives, which may extend to 25 years. He estimated that with far greater scale and even larger turbines expected on the market in the future costs could come down to the €50 range, which is competitive with turbines attached to the bottom.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/climate/floating-windmills-fight-climate-change.html

An interesting concept, but by their own admission still a long way to go until it becomes cost competitive, even with existing mainstream wind turbine technology.

From my understanding of the technology, platform sway could be a big problem.

In 2011 a senior wind engineer told me bearings are the Achilles heel of wind turbines, his words were “we need a quantum leap in bearing material technology”. As of late 2018 turbine owners were still experiencing problems with wear. The bearings wear out too fast, but if they make the bearings bigger and stronger, turbine performance plummets, because larger bearing create greater friction.

Who knows, maybe technology has advanced since 2018, or maybe the engineers who designed the floating platform have discovered new tricks to protect the bearings from damage. But a turbine platform which adds substantial sway to already overloaded turbine bearings, it will be interesting to see how long the turbine lasts.

109 thoughts on “Claim: Floating Wind Turbines Could Save Us from Climate Change

  1. Floating or Fixed, what about our friends the Flying Fish? How do they get the electricity from the Floating/Fixed wind turbines to a utilization site? Undersea cable? As a Razor Clam lover I don’t want them electrocuted. If terrestrial wind turbines are not economic how about these Floating/Fixed monsters 11 miles offshore? There are many things profoundly wrong with this whole scheme. Stay sane (too late for some people?) and safe.

    • I flew over the Louisiana coast after Katrina. They didn’t have an ice problem to deal with, would have been worse.

    • My thoughts exactly. Another bad idea whose time has come.

      “Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.”

      We “could” place boiler tubes around sea floor geothermal vents and extract heat to generate steam as well, but I doubt it would be economical either.

        • I could make a virtual one of these, and I’d be prepared to do it for less than 10% of the quoted cost. Mine wouldn’t work either but it would be equally good at solving the non-existent problem.

    • Yes. If you don’t consider CO2 a pollutant (I consider it essential plant food), then fluidized-bed coal-boilers are advanced, efficient and capture almost all of real pollutants.

  2. If they live near the sea, why aren’t people using the tidal motions of the much denser water to drive generators?

    • The Brits have experimented with tidal power for decades. You are correct that water is denser than air, but that is also the drawback. The projects I saw 10 years ago, failed due to the rough sea and if you made the contraption adequate strong, the performance would be the failure.
      There are, as far as I remember, ideas with dikes, turbines and lagoons, but still very expensive and application will have difficulties passing environmental rules.

      A coal or nuclear power plant is more practical, gives bespoken power 24/7/365.25

    • There simply isn’t enough energy due to low pressure heads. You need extremely high tides to get anything, and even then its only for about 6 hrs on and 18 hrs off.

    • To use tidal motions it has to be done in a natural dam, usually the estuary of a River or a coastal Lagoon. If those are to be navigable, forget the tidal motion project. This is the case in Portugal, where the Major Rivers and the Coastal Lagoon of Aveiro (which is also the outlet of the Vouga River) are used for navigation. The rest of the country has low sandy of rocky beaches or high cliffs, where is not easy to use tidal motion unless you modify the beautiful landscape for this purpose.

    • In 1966 France built a tidal power plant (one of only two in the world) across the estuary of the La Rance River in Brittany, and it’s still going strong today.

      In a world first for this source of renewable energy, it produces around 500 GWh/year.

      More info here in English: https://www.edf.fr/en/the-edf-group/industrial-provider/renewable-energies/marine-energy/tidal-power

      Info in French here (has video explanation +360°): https://www.edf.fr/groupe-edf/producteur-industriel/energies-renouvelables/energies-marines/energie-des-marees

      • A little more info:

        Its 24 turbines reach peak output at 240 megawatts (MW) and average 57 MW, a capacity factor of approximately 24%. At an annual output of approximately 500 GWh (491 GWh in 2009, 523 GWh in 2010), it supplies 0.12% of the power demand of France. The power density is of the order of 2.6 W/m2. The cost of electricity production is estimated at €0.12/kWh.

        • The cost is low because the barrage is only 1km long, most of which it taken up by the turbines and sluices and a lock, and it carries the main coast road from St Malo, with a saving in fuel compared with the next bridge upstream that is a major benefit of itself. It encloses a similar area to that proposed for the Swansea lagoon, which would require 11km of barrage out into the Bristol Channel that goes nowhere, and has no river throughput to help reduce the problems of silting up and corrosion.

  3. Another design to extract 20 more years of Federal handouts. Smart. Make those Democrat politicians’ investments work!

  4. The Ruskies have the right idea and built one: a floating nuclear power plant. We know how to do that, our whole fleet of aircraft carriers is made up of floating nuclear power plants.

  5. Looks like a way to sell floating oil rig platforms. Replace the derrick with a turbine and the EU will fall in love. Billions of Euro’s to follow.

    Never mind the cost of connection to the grid, so long as you don’t run this when the water is rough it should be OK. Best wait for a day with no wind.

    • “… so long as you don’t run this when the water is rough it should be OK. Best wait for a day with no wind.”
      😎

      • I’ve pointed out that the best way to lengthen the expected life of your solar panel is to keep it in the shade.

        • Installed them inside your garage to protect them from hail, like a vintage car to keep in out of the weather, would be recommendation to people who want solar power.

          This scheme works because Renewable energy installations are meant to harvest tax credits and rebates. Any power they generate is incidental to that. So the garaged PV panels can then be re-used for a new installation when the credits expire in the existing installation.

          • Better yet, install them inside a greenhouse!
            That way you can contain your greenhouse gases and get credits too!
            Win-win!

    • Floating oil platforms (especially semi-submersibles) don’t have a problem with rough seas, and can be stabilized very nicely. They’re also huge – one could put at least two large turbines on a clean deck. I knew a guy who used to run the offshore wind program at ARPA-E. He told once me that they had solved the problems associated with rotors that could withstand hurricanes, but we didn’t have time to discuss how.

  6. Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Instead of all these huge Rube Goldberg contraptions with their myriad technical problems, what if we just built a small nuclear plant in some out of the way place, and brought the power by wires to where it was needed. That way, we would even have power if the wind dies down.

    • Won’t work. Humans are drawn to airports, nuclear power plants, etc. They build their homes nearby. Then in the former case, they complain about the noise and try to close down the airport. In the latter case, they complain about the inherent danger, and try to close down the plant.

      How often do you hear a company say “Hey! New York City is a population center! Let’s build an airport beside Times Square!”

      The logic may be that the nearness to airports and power plants depresses real estate values. Then using the power of politics after the area has been turned into a bedroom community, they shutdown the airport/power plant, and presto! property values go up.

    • Nuclear power reactors are becoming simpler and smaller, eg. GE-Hitachi-Toshiba first produced a large and comprex ABWR reactor, after that they designed a simplified, but still large ESBWR reactor, and then moved to design the newest – simplified, small and cheap BWRX-300 reactor, which is like ESBWR, but has just 300MW output, instead of 1520MW.

      Their price claim about BWRX-300 is:
      “is competitively priced and estimated to have the lifecycle costs of typical natural gas combined-cycle plants targeting $2,250/kW for NOAK (nth of a kind) implementations.”

      https://nuclear.gepower.com/build-a-plant/products/nuclear-power-plants-overview/bwrx-300

    • Spot on. The capex for these monstrosities, floating or fixed plus the cable ashore is just crazy. The cable alone would cover a diesel generator and a lot of diesel and the carboin footprint of the manufature and deployment just farts away ant real benefit in that regard. Lose, lose, lose.

  7. Cable maintenance is going to exceed their profit… its moronic.

    Additionally they’re going to need stabilization to the sides equivalent to 2x their height or the first 4kt breeze will tear them apart.

    Flexible wings don’t like to have their mount shoved around and I doubt that 40% of the time the windmill will produce enough power to even operate the ballast systems.

    People who publish these things need public caning.

    • Cable maintenance is going to exceed their (income from subsidies) … its moronic.

      (but mebbe elon will make a battery that store all the energy & make a self controlled submarine that will shuttle the batteries back and forth to the urban users of the energy … It Can Be Done ….)

      • If battery storage of electricity improves, then the energy could be imported from the USA or Canada using such batteries.

    • Just put it in a microwave beam to send to an on-shore collector. Fried sea birds cold be collected and then sold at market as a side-benny. Oh…. and don’t get too close to the collector or the beam side-lobes.

  8. From the article: “This floating windmill with a tower about 600 feet high was sheltering in the harbor. After waiting out the rough winter seas”

    I had to laugh out loud at that one!

    Yooper has the right idea: Go nuclear.

    Windmills will not power the world. These alarmist people have allowed a bogus surface temperature chart to drive them insane, which then makes them propose insane ideas like floating windmills.

    Btw, what’s all that noise the windmills make doing to the whales? Has any alarmist asked that question? No, they haven’t. They don’t seem to care about the whales and they don’t seem to care about the birds when it comes to this insane fixation on the delusion that humans can cause the Earth’s climate to change depending on how much CO2 they produce. There’s no evidence for it, yet these people act as though there is evidence. This is what I call insane/delusional behavior.

    Of course, the dupes have help. They are being fed a sophisticated lie from all directions, so it’s not a surprise that easily influenced people are led astray. We seem to have a lot of sophisticated lies being perpetrated on society nowadays. And the lies are coming almost exclusively from the Left of the political spectrum.

    The Left has goine insane and are trying to drive the rest of us insane. It’s not going to happen. The Left can feel free to go insane, but we are not going with them.

    Btw, did you see the weekly jobs report this morning for the U.S.? About 2.5 million people went back to work last week. That ought to make some people feel a little better. Expect to see similar numbers in the coming weeks. The economy is starting to move.

    • They don’t have to think about whales. If they let all the oil in the ground what do you think will happen to the whales? See…

  9. Indeed, maintenance is going to be a huge factor for these bird-choppers. Even for land-based wind farms, maintenance has proven to be an economic nightmare. When you add in the harsh marine environment, and the much more difficult task of performing even routine maintenance on offshore facilities, the likelihood that offshore wind farms could even begin to be profitable drops quickly to zero.

    • I live in North Cornwall, a beautiful part of the UK which has been blighted by an abundance of wind turbines. At any given time I would estimate that fewer than half of them are actually rotating. Why?

      • They probably have damaged blades which are now out of balance so they have to be “feathered” so they don’t tear themselves apart.

  10. Mr. Metelo said that wind farms of this size would likely generate electricity at a cost of around €200 per megawatt-hour

    €200 or €0.2/kWh with an initial capital cost of €125,000,000 is a bit expensive for supplement intermittent electricity.
    As Ron Long pointed out, what about the infrastructure and transport of the electricity? Does such a cable cost ~€10,000/meter?
    Next we have to think of this as an anchored vessel. How much does overhead energy, maintenance, material and support vessel cost.
    Wind turbines should never stop rotating! In case of no wind, the propeller is turned by supplying electricity to the generator or with an additional motor. Otherwise cold welding of the bearings will shorten their life considerably.

    It is amazing it can be done, but for how long can we the people and the state afford this cost?

  11. I don’t see any advantages of a floating turbine as compared to a fixed one. 1) It must still be cabled into the power grid to deliver the power it produces, so cables must be run to whatever location it is setup at. 2) You can’t “tow it” from one location to another without a large amount of energy and manpower. 3) If it has to be brought into the harbor during stormy weather or during the winter season that’s again a lot of energy and manpower.

    • “It must still be cabled into the power grid to deliver the power it produces”

      No need for that.
      The fleet of Tesla battery tankers will do the job.

    • The only advantage is that you can place these in areas where the water is too deep for a fixed turbine.
      Having to frequently replace the bearings quickly eats into the cost saving from not having to build a super tall base.

  12. NO! It’s too late….we can’t stop warming by reducing “pollutants”. We must go the SO2 option….spread the stuff in the upper atmosphere and give us immediate relief from this stifling choking HEAT. Time waits for no man…..but the Climate CO2 Research/Wind-Solar Industrial Complex can continue to receive Billions in funding – OK?

  13. Floating windmills are ony a working proposition if fitted on very large platforms with very many stalks, and in any event, will require an automatd (to avoid added costs of SOLAS etc) and costly backup form of power generation ( on the same cable to land into grid) to produce the energy flow when low or zero wind force available. to mai tin the income stream and earn any relatively small profit. High cost maintenance, intermittent access, and low efficiency will wipe out any profit (see my paper re copyrighted floating wind farms 2013)
    The enthusiasm for wave motion energy is similarly misplaced, unreliable and costly per Mw outputage.
    Solar similarly intermittent, thus fails to meet consisency of supply requirements, especially in regions where demand is bound to increase due to populaion increase and ‘need to work’ commercial / political necessities of ‘keeping people busy’ and ‘out of trouble’.

    • The problem with really large floating platforms is that wave action tends to break them apart.
      The only way to deal with that is to provide flexible hinges throughout the platform so that it can flex with the waves.
      The only problem with that is those hinges make the platform a lot more expensive, and a lot flimsier.

      Best to just forget the whole thing and go have a drink.

      • “Best to just forget the whole thing and go have a drink.”

        I have idea I call a pipelauncher, which would launch rockets.
        Could use similar thing with wind mills {but I don’t wind mill are good idea- but pipelauncher could make it cheaper}
        A pipelauncher is just long pipe with one end capped.
        If put long pipe with one end capped in the water, the open end fills with water.
        And it flips vertical. It’s held vertical. And similar to spar buoy, wiki:
        “Spar buoys are often used as stable platforms for wave measurement devices and air–sea interaction measurements. Spar buoys range in length from a few feet[5] to the 354-foot (108 meter) RP FLIP.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spar_buoy#:~:text=A%20spar%20buoy%20is%20a,popular%20for%20making%20oceanographic%20measurements.
        Though more similar to the RP FLIP, but RP FLIP doesn’t one end open.
        A pipelauncher would something about 200 meter long and 10 meter in diameter, and has to accelerate rocket weighing several hundreds of tons. Or to float say 1000 tons, there has air pressure inside the pipe which would push water below the waterline. Say 10 meter below waterline. 10 meter under water is 1 atm of atmosphere of pressure. In terms of absolute pressure 14.7 +14.7 = 29.4 psi. But it’s 14.7 psig. And make it accelerate, if push water 20 meter under water line, and so it has twice the buoyant force- it goes up at 1 gee, as long as water is pushed 20 meter below waterline. So, need to add lots of air, and add liquid air which would become gaseous if dump 1 ton into 1 ton of warm water. But also warm the air, because that would make cold air.
        Anyhow you don’t need launch wind mills.
        But by adding or removing air, one can rise or lower the wind mill.
        So it could be say 100 meter long pipe with one end capped- and not have diameter as much as 10 meter diameter. And have way to remove air and add Liquid air to the pipe.

        As they say, spar buoy are very stable platforms- and they would be stable platform in a hurricane.
        But probably want lower the wind mill in a hurricane, as be could be quite the sail the higher it is.

  14. In 2011 a senior wind engineer told me bearings are the Achilles heel of wind turbines, his words were “we need a quantum leap in bearing material technology”.

    Easy, all we need is the StarTrek-era frictionless bearings. 😉

    • Pet peeve of mine: a “quantum leap” is one of the SMALLEST possible changes in nature.

      • In addition, a quantum leap would take you to something you couldn’t be certain of. 🙂

    • Just use all the power generated to power a magnetic field to replace the bearings!

      • Gunga Din, as an engineer, that’s exactly what I thought, but you’d prb’ly need a superconductor-material to carry the current required for a really heavy-weight-carrying bearing.

        • Just build the shaft with a builtin anti-gravity system!
          (Or the handle from a REALLY big broom from the Harry Potter movies!)

        • The problem with magnetic bearings is that you cannot tolerate a single fault, or you have to have something available to absorb the rotational energy on bearing failure so you don’t tear apart the shaft and pylon.

      • The idea is not so bad, was it not for Henrik S.’s idea that we should gear-less generators with permanent magnets.

    • “we need a quantum leap in bearing material technology”
      If you need quantum leap in anything you haven’t got a project.
      Try quadrupling the bearing surface area. It might add a couple of tons to the generator, but is a lot cheaper than a quantum leap in anything. The bearings should be designed for 2-3 times the projected lifespan of the generator, say 75 years or so.

      A little more research into the expected maximum bearing loads needs to be done. A long life design would be projected to exceed the max load less than 95% of the time and only for brief periods of less than a minute.

  15. From the “boxed article” quoted above: “This article is part of a special report on ‘Climate Solutions’.”

    Well, therein is the caveat emptor. How can there be climate solutions when the climate problems have not even been defined?

    Are the climate problems:
    — the world getting hotter in summers, or colder in winters?
    — the world suffering from flooding, or from droughts?
    — the world suffering from too much CO2, or too little CO2 for optimum crop growth to feed humanity?
    — the world suffering from too much cloud cover, or too little cloud cover?
    — the world suffering from too much or too little atmospheric water vapor (the predominant greenhouse gas)?
    — the world suffering from its oceans shifting very slightly in average pH (range of 8.2-8.1)?
    — the world suffering from too many insects (pests), or too few insects (species extinction)?
    — the world suffering from too many El Ninos, or too many La Ninas?
    — the world suffering from too much wind (claimed increase in storms of all types) or too little wind (for windmill power farms to be reliable)?
    — the world suffering from currently being in an interglacial period, as opposed to being in a glacial period?
    — the world suffering from too many Greta Thunbergs, or too few?
    — all of the above, or none of the above but something else?

  16. Anyone who has owned or worked on a boat kept on or near salt water would immediately recognize the multitude of problems any infrastructure project like this would face. Water, wind, sun, salt, electricity, sea life and constant motion all conspire with each other to constantly destroy whatever man tries to build in this environment. It’s a non-stop battle against entropy. The required constant maintenance and very short service life compared to contemporary infrastructure renders devices like this uneconomical from the get-go. Consider than land-based windmills only have a lifespan of about 20 years. Sea-based ones probably wouldn’t survive less than half that.

  17. In addition to added bearing problems, sea-mounted wind generators are subject to salt spray. As any maritime engineer will tell you, salt eats the —- out of everything. The current crop of bottom mounted salt-water wind generators are presently re-learning this fact.

    • Indeed. So in addition to being more expensive, they’ll need replacement more often. Which is a win-win for the bottomless hole of made-up industry.

  18. Hmmm … Here’s a possibly practical application of floating windmills.
    Why not put a bunch of them on oil or NG tankers powered by electric motors!
    The massive battery pack required could serve as the ballast!
    (And I lost my “sarc tag” again. I hate it when that happens.)

  19. As an engineer I wonder how they will manage the gyroscopic effect of the blades on the bearings. I don’t hold out much hope for them. Also the blade flex will be a huge problem.

    • If engineering cost vs. feasibility trades were an issue, then this thing would never have gone past the feasibility study. That they actually have 3 of these things feeding off OPM tells you economics is not a factor. Its a jobs-make work program in an economically depressed region.

    • And I wonder if they have modeled all the possible vibrational resonant modes that this set-up would have. The tower and blades all the way through to the platform to cable resonant modes.

      I wonder what they would do if a whale decided that this edifice would make a good place to scratch off molting skin the the accumulated barnacles that have on its body?
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjv-KrlCWh8
      and

  20. The image caption at the head of the article is `Artist impression`

    I don’t think he/she/they should give up the day job just yet.

    • It did strike me as odd that the tower was on one of floats and not in the center of all three.
      But I’m not an artist or an engineer that sees the world through Green-colored glasses.

    • All the images I could find are copyrighted, so I figured a quick sketch might be useful. I don’t pretend to be a commercial artist.

  21. Gyroscopic forces on a large rotating mass are considerable. Even in a gentle swell these will be evident and over time will result in fatigue failure in both the bearings and blade structure. Additionally inherent maritime salt particles apart from creating corrosion, erode the aerodynamic efficiency of the blades due to the high velocities involved. I expect these two factors will also very much narrow the available wind window for generation.
    I doubt any of those who agreed to fund this had ever been at sea in a force 10 gale.
    I recall some years ago being in an aircraft carrier in such conditions when the stern was rising and falling through about 40 feet in under a minute. On reaching harbour it was found that the catwalks around the flight deck had been bent vertically up .

  22. No way these are going to “last” for 26 years…I am willing to bet they start failing in under 10. Just too much going on while dealing with salt, water, storms, waves, tilting, etc.

    I have an idea. Let’s use some common substance, say underground fossil carbon stores made from ancient plants, to heat up water and produce steam. The steam acting under pressure runs through a series of steam turbines which turn a generator producing power. The steam is then cooled producing clean water. I bet this might work for a lot less money. Small, compact (compared to wind farms), and easy to maintain, it likely would last for 50 years and cost a tenth as much. (<– Yes, sarcasm, but also true)

  23. I wonder if one day a journalist , instead of telling us that ” But people are getting excited, and EU cash is pouring into this expensive new wind power scheme,” might enquire about exactly from where the money is pouring out. I wonder also if the people who are in such a state of orgasmic delight are the same as those who have seen their livelihoods destroyed by the latest import from China.

  24. Lets me figure this out. A energy producer that is unprofitable at 20m euros will suddenly be profitable at in a new version at $125m euros. Please send these people to economics 101.

  25. How’d anyone pronounce this guy’s name: said Alexander Flotre,

    Not floater by any chance?

  26. “About €60 million came through a loan by the European Investment Bank, a wing of the European Union, ”
    Brexit looks even better now.

  27. Floating wind turbines could save us from having any cash savings or relible power. There fixed it.

  28. “a senior wind engineer told me bearings are the Achilles heel of wind turbines, his words were “we need a quantum leap in bearing material technology”

    Magnetic ‘bearings’ could be a solution to the eternal friction of such a spinning mass, as long as your power supply never failed to keep supplying the energy required to keep it magnetically ‘floating’ within a tolerance, on multiple axis of thrust. Then it would be metal on metal and really bad things happen when you have that kind of friction. Like a total literal melt down and probably a fire, and everything comes unglued and flies off into pieces. Many examples on YouTube of windmills flying/burning to pieces.

    Perhaps a type of magnetic bearing, within a Kingsbury type oil bearing, where all the thrust is absorbed within an incompressible fluid, which is already reduced by the magnetic bearing taking all the thrust with the failsafe being the Kingsbury oil bearing absorbing friction within an oil pressure between the metal surfaces if the magnetic ‘bearing’ force field fails. If both fail even momentarily for some reason, it is still catastrophic failure. Kingsbury type bearings are old and tried tech, but magnetic ‘bearings’ are probably still in R&D. Would be nice to hear an expert comment on the trouble with these windmill bearings, since that is probably the biggest mechanical challenge to longevity and affordable maintenance. When you have to change the main thrust bearings, you need the crane to take off the blades, take the Nacelle all apart, separate the gear box, drive train, brakes etc etc. Just to replace the massive bearing.

    Probably something can be engineered to work better, but at what cost for the entire project to be economically viable without subsidization? If it is subsidized, why bother tying to figure out the bearing failure if your losses are compensated for? Which is the fundamental problem of intermittent renewables. It is all distorted when subsidies are supplied to an inferior product, when the base load product is already that much more superior. And the base load is required to be sacrificial to allow the inferior intermittent to even work, when it does work but can’t be predicted. Power engineers who operate grids are just amazed that they are expected to try and make this work, and then for what benefit when you need the spinning reserve full capacity, spinning on back up in case the wind or Sun dips off for 2 minutes. Pretty soon the base load asset is up and down like a yo-yo, which costs fuel and wears out quicker than if it could just operate 24/7 at its rated output. All this is ill thought out and unnecessary. And very expensive.

    The capital cost per floating wind turbine is also preposterous and will not be economical, even if the capacity factor is much higher than onshore wind. Especially for such a limited life time in a salt water harsh environment with a limited life span of a few decades at best, and probably not even that before major maintenance or replacement is required, which is usually the main thrust bearings at 7-8 years on average or less.

    I suppose on the positive side, at least they can be towed to a dry dock junk yard for storage and hopeful recycling and not left out in the ocean or the blight of onshore wind turbines left to rust as we see happening already. There are some commercial operational floating windmills recently installed, but haven’t heard any update on performance, probably because no one wants to admit the real cost and problems they have encountered.

    • Magnetic bearings are already in service and have been for several decades now. They are primarily used for high RPM applications involving light loads where minimizing wear and frictional losses is a high priority. They are also useful for vacuum and zero gee applications that interfere with lubrication in conventional bearings. I doubt current designs are suitable for something as massive as a wind turbine, particularly since wind turbines normally operate at fairly low RPM.

    • Huge forces straining against the bearing in all different directions. They would need to be strong magnets.

      • Yes, would need to be a 360 degree magnetic bearing that could balance thrust on the fly from every directional force. Since it is rotating relatively slowly at the centre of the hub, it should be easier to predict where the thrust force is going to be (or read sensor input) and adjust the magnetic field accordingly to counteract the direction of thrust.

        Similar to high speed Maglev trains (derived from magnetic levitation) a system of train transportation that uses two sets of magnets, one set to repel and push the train up off the track, and another set to move the elevated train ahead, taking advantage of the lack of friction. The same principal should be able to be configured into a rotating hub, and counterbalanced by the input of the electromagnetic field to adjust to the thrust on the fly. Would be a parasitic load on the electricity produced, but in theory should be able to be implemented. The main thrust bearing of these giant windmills are probably their biggest technical challenge, and the costliest repair.

  29. A wind turbine cannot produce the legally required 50/60Hz energy waveform.
    They are a complete scam and cannot boil a jug.
    They cannot be synchronised to the grid.
    They do produce useless harmonics (dirty energy) which through smart meters are fraudulently added to consumers power bills.

    Wind turbines are manufactured by an industrial economy and yet wind turbines cannot power an industrial economy.
    Wind turbines cannot produce the energy that went into making them.
    They do not off set the CO2 produced in their manufacture.

    The whole wind turbine industry is a massive rort.
    The subsidies are criminal.

  30. The biggest flaw of all wind turbines, especially offshore ones, is that the design assumes peace time and no war going on.

    If there’s a war then these things are easy to destroy:
    1) Stand either on open sea or on open terrain available for the enemy to come close.
    2) No active protection possible (too many turbines for a given amount of power to guard them)
    3) No passive protection possible – the design has to be a tall, relatively thin to the height pole – on of the shapes least resistant to damage (most resistant being cube/globe shape).
    4) Small enough to be taken down by small ships, drones, underwater drones and other cheap military equipment that is available to everyone.

    As an example – many nuclear power plants can withstand a plane crushing into them. A small number of such plants for the desired amount of energy means they can be protected by anti aircraft and anti ballistic missiles.

    Base your energy on wind turbines = loose war.

  31. Some basic math. Assume 10MW turbines operating at 50% capacity factor, producing an average of 120MWh per day. Or 70 barrels of oil equivalent a day. Would you justify a floating offshore oil platform for so little?

    This scheme is of course not pioneering. That honour belongs to Statoil/Equinor.

    https://www.equinor.com/en/what-we-do/floating-wind.html

    The Hywind project is of course heavily subsidised. Its 30MW of capacity are connected to Batwind – not a bat munching eco crucifix, but a toy 1MW, 1MWh battery. It was of course enough for more Norwegian virtue signalling in the Tampen project to use 88MW of floating turbines to provide some power to the Snørre/Gulfaks offshore oil and gas platforms. The $550m cost is funded by a $260m grant, and is financially justified by reducing the payout on CO2 emissions tax for offshore operations. In short, it would never normally go ahead.

    https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/features/floating-wind-turbines/

    • I checked out the subsidy paid to Hywind. It is 3.5ROCs per MWh, currently worth about £175/MWh, on top of the market price.

  32. There will come a time when there are so many wind turbines out there sapping energy from the atmosphere that wind circulation patterns will be altered, resulting in….Climate Change!

  33. So my electric bill tells me that I pay 2 cents per kwh (generation cost). The equivalent of $20 per mwh.

    Question: how is $200 per mwh (order of magnitude greater) remotely competitive? Even if reduced to $50/mwh is still 2.5 times more expensive.

    I expect the numbers are even worse. My 2 cents per kwh includes the cost of backup (when units are offline for maintenance). Do the $200 per mwh include backup costs for when the wind isn’t blowing?

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