As of 2013 all of the offshore windfarms operating in the world are mounted on foundations in relatively shallow water firmly anchored or embedded in the floor of the sea.
The dependence current technology has on shallow water has put a major constraint on market development, limiting it to only those areas where offshore wind can be built using these traditional foundations.
The Oil &Gas industry has long utilized sophisticated floating structures for deep water exploration and extraction. By adapting and innovating floating technology for use in offshore wind, the possibility of huge market expansion and as a result, a much lower cost from electricity produced from offshore wind is just now coming into view.
Currently there are only a few demonstration units installed anywhere in the world, the most advanced of these are located off the coast of Norway and another off the coast of Portugal. Earlier this summer we highlighted the demonstration unit installed off the coast of Maine. Just this last week it was announced that Principle Power Inc. a Seattle based company, (the same company which operates the floating unit off of Portugal) has applied for a commercial wind lease off the coast of Coos Bay, Oregon. This area would be used for the installation of their floating wind demonstration units.
In recent months Japan has aggressively advanced floating wind as a major new contributor to its future electricity supply even as it dismantles its nuclear power program in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. The Environmental Ministry projects that offshore wind has the potential to produce 1.6 billion Kw or 8 times the current capacity of Japan’s electricity production.
To develop this technology on a fast track the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering has partnered with several leading manufacturing companies to develop large capacity (2Mw-7Mw) floating turbines with the ultimate goal to build the worlds first 1Gw floating offshore wind farm.
We look forward to the day when such renewable energy projects are developed just over the horizon in the deep water off of Tokyo and near such electricity hungry American cities as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu.