The world’s first water-based, electricity-generating wind turbine is set to be installed off the coast of Norway this coming weekendAlexandra Beck Gjorv of the Norwegian-based energy concern Statoil told

reporters this weekend that the new floating wind power station, known

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as the Hywind, “should help move offshore wind farms out of sight”.

If

it proves successful, explained Gjorv, it could spur an industry-wide

shift to relocate wind farms to locations several miles offshore where

they would no longer cause disruptions on land.

Moving wind

farms with thousands of giant turbines from their current locations on

land into the northern Atlantic could potentially benefit military

radar operations, the shipping industry, fisheries, bird life and

tourism, Gjorv explained.

But there are also benefits for the energy industry itself.

“Taking

wind turbines to sea presents new opportunities,” said Ms Gjorv. “The

wind is stronger and more consistent [and] areas are large.”

Statoil says that the floating turbines will be connected to mainland

power grids by cables stretched across the ocean floor. The use of

long, high-voltage cables places practical limits on just how far

offshore the company can place its turbines

. Because the durable, high-capacity cables are so expensive, the distance from land is not unlimited, explained Ms Gjorv.

The

Hywind turbine was designed and built by German engineering

conglomerate Siemens AG, combining the newest wind power technologies

with those from the oil and gas industry. The 2.3 megawatt floating

power generator is set for a two year trial run off the coast of Norway

before Statoil will make a decision on large-scale commercial viability

of the devices.

In addition to the 65-meter-tall above ground

portion of the turbine, the Hywind is also equipped with a flotation

element that stretches 100 meters beneath the surface of the sea. The

submerged segment, known as a draft, will be anchored to the sea bed by

three cables that can be up to 700 meters in length. Thus, the turbine

can potentially be moored in waters nearly a kilometer deep.

Particularly

in their early phases, offshore wind farms will cost significantly more

than the more common terrestrial-based ones. In the long-run, however,

Ms Gjorv maintains that there is no reason why the floating wind farms

should cost more than static ones.

She added that Statoil

intends to initially push their product in markets where there is both

the ability to pay as well as a rapidly growing demand for energy.

Gjorv

insists that the floating turbines could eventually be installed off

both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America as well as off

the coasts of Spain, Portugal, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Floating

wind farms could prove a practical and beneficial energy source for

countries with little available land or who have very little wind, Ms

Gjorv added.

“The global market for such turbines is

potentially enormous, depending on how low we can press costs,” she

said, though she was unable to offer specifics on when or at what cost

the turbines would be commercially available.

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