Offshore Wind Turbine? Put it on an Oil Rig!
By Yoni Levinson in EcoGeek
There are numerous benefits to building wind offshore. Winds are high, there isn't much in the way, and it can be relatively close to where people live (compared to, say, wind farms in the Midwest). You have room to spread out, build lots of turbines, and scale up to hundreds, if not thousands, of megawatts.
But one thing is for sure - building a wind turbine in the ocean is trickier than building one on land. As much of the construction as possible is done on land, and the parts are then brought to the site by ship and installed at sea. Seeing as wind turbines can weigh 1,000 tons or more, it's a pretty big job to construct and secure them on land - and an even bigger job to do so on a ship that is constantly bobbing up and down with the waves.
Fortunately, there is an industry out there that is quite familiar with building big, sturdy things in the ocean - the oil industry! And that's why SeaEnergy Renewables is planning on building their offshore turbines on oil rigs (see photo on right). In fact, the founding members of SeaEnergy are former oil industry people themselves.
These rigs offer numerous benefits to wind applications. They can be build farther offshore - up to depths of 39 meters - than a straight up offshore turbine, which would otherwise be limited to 20 meters. That means that it's harder to see the turbines from shore, which means fewer NIMBY-realted delays (think Cape Wind in Massachusetts). They are also sturdier; it's the difference between mounting something really heavy on a pole and mounting it on four legs. Finally, it uses less steel, which makes it cheaper, especially since steel prices are steadily on the rise.
SeaEnergy plans on using the windy coast of Scotland to build enough turbines to generate 1 GW in five years and 3-5 GW in the long term. They have already demonstrated the rig technique by building two 5.5 MW turbines, which have already been operating for a few years.
This is exactly why big, fossil-fuel driven companies should be (and in many cases, are) embracing renewables such as wind. Even if a startup company came up with the idea to mount wind turbines on oil rigs, they would have a pretty hard time coming up with the resources - both in terms of material and expertise - to make that happen quickly. But an oil company already has all those things in place. They could build the machines quicker, and start seeing profit sooner.
Big energy companies have so many talented engineers, so much heavy equipment, so much political clout and experience and (of course) so much capital, that they are well equipped to make wind turbines - not to mention solar farms or biofuel refineries - start sprouting up like daisies. So maybe they will take a page out of SeaEnergy's book.