The wild new technology coming to offshore wind power

The solution, as Weinstein sees it, is to build floating turbines. Weinstein said offshore wind is following a progression that oil and gas companies have charted with rigs: moving from onshore to offshore to floating facilities.

Weinstein has been involved in some of the world’s first floating wind energy demonstration projects, including a 50 megawatt installation in Scotland. In total, about 125 megawatts of demonstration projects have been installed globallyand another 125 megawatts under construction.

And the pipeline is growing rapidly. In total, more than 60 gigawatts of offshore wind projects around the world are in the planning stages, with South Korea, the UK, Australia and Brazil among the top countries in terms of planned capacity.

Illustration of six offshore wind turbines.  The three on the left are in shallow water with the shafts lying on the ocean floor.  Three on the right are in deeper water, floating but tethered to the ocean floor.
This illustration depicts six offshore wind turbines. The three on the left are the traditional fixed platform, while the three on the right are the floating model.


A Milestone, and What’s Next

Now, California is joining the list of governments jumping into the floating wind farm game.

The state has auctioned off 370,000 acres of ocean, divided into five locations across two areas off the California coast. Sites are in water up to 1,300 meters deep and will require floating wind technology. My colleague James Temple published a story that dives into the auction earlier this week.

Companies bid for sites that could house enough wind turbines to generate up to 4.5 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 1.5 million homes. In total, the sites sold for $757 million, of which the largest site sold for nearly $174 million.

The auction represents a new phase for offshore floating wind energy. Less than a decade ago, Weinstein told me at EmTech, people didn’t take technology seriously when she proposed her plan to build farms in the state. “People look at me and say, ‘you’re crazy, why are you doing this, this isn’t going to work,'” she said.

Companies can now begin their journey to building US floating wind farms in earnest. But auctions are just one of many steps between ideation and power generation. Companies have years of planning and construction before they start generating electricity from sites. Licensing alone can take anywhere from five to seven years.


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