The Siemens-manufactured turbine consists of a steel jacket filled with a floating ballast to provide stability. The Hywind’s ballast extends 328 feet below the surface, where it is fastened to the seabed with three anchor wires and attached to the mainland grid via cables extending to shore.
Floating turbines have a number of advantages compared to traditional offshore wind power; they don’t block the views of coastal residents, they don’t have to deal with shoreline construction restrictions due to animal habitat concerns, and winds are both stronger and more consistent further off the coast. But floating turbines still have a ways to go before becoming mainstream. Initially, the turbines will be significantly more expensive than offshore models, which are already pricier than land-based turbines. Over time, though, costs should go down. And floating turbines could greatly expand the offshore wind power capacity of countries with limited shallow waters.
We’ll find out just how soon the Hywind–and other floating wind turbines–can make it to market when the Norwegian prototype connects to the grid and starts producing power in mid-July.