Wind turbines are showing up on top of mountains, across vast plains, and in the waters off the coasts of the world’s cities. Even the open ocean isn’t closed to wind turbines, and in even better news, the project off the coast of Scotland is .
The Hywind wind farm is the world’s first floating wind farm, located about 15 miles off the coast of Scotland. Unlike other offshore wind farms, Hywind isn’t anchored to the seafloor. Instead, Hywind relies on buoys and anchors to stay afloat even in high winds or waves. This makes floating wind farms like Hywind a great choice for regions where traditional offshore wind farms aren’t viable.
“The west coast of the USA, Japan and Hawaii are all places that need a lot of energy and that are consistently windy, but where the sea is very deep,” . “Floating wind power is ideal for these areas.”
But for floating wind farms to be successful, they have to be more than just versatile. They also have to be profitable, which means generating enough energy to justify the large construction costs. Fortunately, the Hywind farm seems to have succeeded in this area as well, reaching a 65 percent capacity factor over the past three months.
A generator’s capacity factor is the ratio between the amount of electricity it generates and the maximum amount of energy it could possibly produce. Most baseline plants, like nuclear or natural gas plants that run continuously, have around a 100 percent capacity factor. Many renewable energy facilities like wind or solar farms have a , around 30 percent or so.
Given that, a 65 percent capacity factor for the Hywind farm is pretty good. Granted, winter winds tend to blow stronger than summer ones, so we could see this number drop over the rest of the year. Still, this is much higher than typical for wind farms, which bodes well for the concept of floating wind turbines in general.
This could be great news for California, which is looking for ways to meet its ambitious renewable energy agenda. The state has pledged to produce 50 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2030, and floating offshore wind turbines could help. Perhaps this news is what it will take to finally start seeing offshore wind turbines grace American shoreline views.