A new design of floating wind turbine could soon be bobbing on the shores of Norway. Oslo-based start-up World Wide Wind (WWW) has just got the go-ahead to test out their novel design at a site in Vats, southwest Norway.
“We are very proud to test our first prototype in cooperation with AF Gruppen and look forward to the launch and subsequent test program, as well as exploring further opportunities for collaboration,” Bjørn Simonsen, CEO of WWW, said in a statement.
“Offshore floating wind is about to become a significant contributor to the global renewable energy mix, but to truly unlock its potential we need to develop sustainable and cost-efficient floating wind turbine solutions - not simply move land-based turbines offshore. Our turbines are specially designed for floating operations,” added Simonsen.
The prototype turbine measures 19 meters (62 feet) tall and features two sets of three-pronged blades that allow the whole mast to freely spin on a vertical axis, rotating a generator that’s found at the base of the structure below the water. This underwater turbine and ballast are then moored to the seafloor through cables. The whole structure is built to tilt like a sailboat, allowing it to sway with the motion of the waves.
The idea is that floating wind turbines can generate electricity in water depths where fixed-foundation turbines are not feasible. It’s estimated that 80 percent of offshore wind potential is found above the deep sea where it would prove difficult to construct and maintain a turbine that’s rigidly fixed to the seabed.
A number of floating wind turbines are already in operation, but several challenges hamper them from reaching their potential.
WWW believes their model could iron out these problems, such as a reduced weight and a simplified supply chain. They argue the new design has the added advantage of having less impact on wildlife, plus it has the potential to substantially reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of wind energy.
“We believe this could be floating wind’s ‘Tesla moment’," Stian Valentin Knutsen, the founder of WWW, told Recharge in 2022.
“There has been a lot of head-scratching over the last 10 years on floating wind but no solution [to commercialising it] today and we think the current path will not solve it either, that is, to get the technology to an LCOE that will be competitive,” he continued.
The prototype is a 30kW turbine, but the company hopes to start testing bigger and more powerful models in the next few years. A 1,2MW pilot is set to be tested around early 2025, while they aim to launch a commercial 24 MW turbine before 2030. Eventually, they hope to scale the design beyond 40MW.