Copyright © ChangeInc 2023
Sometimes, as editors, you stumble upon news that raises an eyebrow. That one remarkable innovation, an unexpected effect of climate change or a feat of human clumsiness. Remarkable, in other words. This week: the single blade floating wind turbine.
To harness wind energy on the far sea, there has been plenty of experimentation with floating windmills in recent years. And there is no shortage of creativity. We have previously seen windmills in the shape of pyramids and gigantic vertical giants swaying on the waves. Dutch company TouchWind is now adding a new design: the floating windmill with only one blade.
Rotor blade like a helicopter
The blade is attached to a rotor attached to an inclined mast. As with many floating windmills, this mast rotates with the direction of the wind. Below the rotor is a buoy that prevents the blade from sinking into the water, for example, when there is hardly any wind. When there is a lot of wind, the rotation of the blade causes the mast to stand more upright, similar to the effect of a helicopter rotor blade.
Turning in a storm
TouchWind claims their design can handle higher wind speeds than competing offshore wind turbines. Most wind turbines shut down (automatically) at wind speeds above 89 kilometers per hour, as we saw during storm Poly earlier this year. According to TouchWind, their wind turbine can handle speeds up to 252 kilometers per hour. This means less downtime, and therefore more available hours to generate power.
Further, TouchWind says the cost of their turbine is about one-third that of turbines with three blades. TouchWind's turbine can be easily mounted in the larger ports where seaworthy mills are already being built. A tug can be used to transport the lying turbine to its destination, where it will be attached to the ground with an anchor and connected to the shore via a power cable.
While offshore floating wind turbines sound like a great solution for generating wind energy without bothering anyone, there are challenges. The length of the power cable is just one of them. After all, the further offshore the wind turbine is, the longer it naturally has to be. In addition, floating wind turbines often involve energy loss due to the mast swaying with the wind.
In any case, TouchWind wants to eventually build a turbine with a rotor blade 200 meters long. Such a system is good for a capacity of 12.5 megawatts, roughly the energy for 15,000 households.
Investment from Japan
But it's not quite there yet. After land-based and small-scale trials, TouchWind is entering the next phase of testing thanks to an investment from Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL).
"We have been working together for a year now to further develop our floating wind turbine," said Rikus van de Klippe, CEO of TouchWind. "Field tests with a 6-meter diameter rotor blade are in full preparation at Lake Oostvoorn in the Netherlands. With MOL as a shareholder and their investment, we can accelerate our test program, prove our technology and shorten time-to-market."