September 18, 2006 3:56 PM PDT

MIT designs 'invisible,' floating wind turbines

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A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has designed a system to place wind turbines far offshore and out of sight.

Paul D. Sclavounos, a professor of mechanical engineering and naval architecture, worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to design a system that uses cables to tether large turbines to floating platforms.

Floating wind turbine

The tethers connect the platform to concrete blocks on the ocean floor in up to about 650 feet of water. According to Sclavounos and the NREL, the arrangement is stable enough to operate even in large waves brought by a hurricane because the design limits the turbine to mainly back-and-forth movements, rather than up and down.

Wind power is one of the fastest-growing clean-energy sectors worldwide, but proposals to build offshore wind turbines have met public resistance in the United States, largely due to aesthetic concerns.

Traditional offshore turbines are placed in relatively shallow water and visible from the shoreline. One notable example is the Cape Wind proposal--a 420-megawatt facility that has drawn opposition.

Encouraged by positive responses from wind, electric power and oil companies, Sclavounos--who previously worked building offshore platforms for deep-sea oil and gas exploration--hopes to install a half-scale prototype south of Cape Cod.

In a statement, he said that the 90-meter-high systems would generate twice as much electricity per installed megawatt as near-shore turbines because the winds are strong and steady farther out at sea.

Construction of the turbines, which would be large, multi-megawatt systems, would most likely take place onshore at a shipyard. They could conceivably be towed to different locations, according to MIT and the NREL.

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Invisible to people maybe
I wonder if sea birds will find these to be quite as invisible.
Posted by jhracing (14 comments )
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More Important Things To Worry About
We need energy. We are going to get it one way or another. Your using a computer to respond, which uses energy. Here's an idea: why don't you give that up and all your other worldly possesions because they all either use energy, or took energy to make. You're not being realistic. It's the lesser of many evils, if you want to even call it that--I wouldn't. We are running low on fossil fuels and such, which are much more destructive to the environment. If a few birds have to die, it's sad I guess, but nothing's perfect. Unless you have a better idea, then why fuss about it?
Posted by MrHandle (71 comments )
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Almost slow enough to nest, birdies will be cool wiffit.
Large wind turbines do not kill avians, they move too slowly.
That's not to say that visiting keepers won't go on shotgun
rampages, however.
Posted by TogetherinParis (318 comments )
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jh is RIGHT!
Sea birds don't enjoy unsightly wind turbines. Sea birds enjoy scoping out the sunset while bathing in oil that jhracing's tanker just spilled everywhere because he needed electricity and was afraid of killing a few birds every month or two.

Pollution/global warming/oil spills/massive species extinction VS few dead birds a month

Posted by HecticDialectics (38 comments )
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Right. Like environmentalists won't b*tch and moan about these
When will people realize that environmentalists are against all forms of energy production? Yea, maybe Jane and Joe Enviro down the street will cheer this advance, but the leaders raking in the cash at hardline environmental groups will find a way to oppose these things. Guaranteed. When a major project is about to begin you can expect to hear the black-or-white arguments of environmental armageddon that these people are famous for.

Why are environmental groups against any form of energy production? Who knows? Some say that an environmentally-friendly future will cause their positions of power and privilege to become obsolete. Others point out that the anti-individual / anti-capitalist agenda of these organizations forces them to be against all forms of energy production since capitalism requires a steady stream of energy. Me? I personally believe it's a combination of both.

Sadly, most people still seem to believe that environmental groups are concerned about the environment, and we are all paying the price of these energy obstructionists every time you fill up at the pump or receive an electric bill.
Posted by Scuba_Steve1974 (7 comments )
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"When will people realize that environmentalists are against all
forms of energy production?"

Probably when it is true.
I.e. never.
Posted by DeusExMachina (516 comments )
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Give me a break.....
I worked with an environmental group over the summer before coming back to college and I was the one going door to door on the hottest days of the summer trying to get support for the offshore wind project. So come up to New Paltz and tell me to my face that environmentalists don't care about alternative evidence. That or Id like you to get up, and go out door to door and say what you are saying now to random strangers. Everyone on this site thinks they know so much and really thinks that they are effecting someone else by sitting in their office, living room, den, etc "B*tching and moaning" about whether or not they like wind power. I want all of you to GET UP and do something about it! Sitting here writing to other middle aged white/blue collared men with too much time on their hands isn't doing anything! I did my part and plan on going back to work on whatever else my organization is working towards in December. I'm doing something. And maybe if you would stop thinking about money and start thinking about the environment youd realize this is a discussion on Wind Power, not socialism vs. Capitalism. I just want to make sure that my future and the future of my family members are safe. In other words, Id sacrifice the view of the gorgeous ocean (I live in Long Beach so dont tell me Im not partial to the ocean) for a better life for my family.
Posted by Treehugger24 (1 comment )
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Electricity and water? Thought that was a bad thing
Posted by (2 comments )
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The perspective of a left wing liberal environmentalist
It sounds good in principle however, I don't think one little story on C/Net gives us enough information. My guess is that the project will have very little environmental impact. A few birds will get Ginsued however not enough to affect genetic diversity.

The real question is will this project work from an economic standpoint? How often will the hardware break? How many people will it take to maintain the power lines? What percentage of the time will each generator be operational.

Like most if not all left wing liberal environmentalists I believe that no solution will work if it is not economically sound. I might invest a small amount of money in a project like this, but only from my, "Crazy idea that probably will not work, but if it does it will make a ton of money" fund.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
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Good for the ecosystem
So a few sea birds get whacked. I don't think anyone can claim that the world needs more sea gulls. This may actually be beneficial. Shark populations are under tremendous pressure - dead sea gulls would attract and feed more sharks - which would help to increase their populations. This in-turn could spawn a cottage industry that provides shark diving trips around the wind turbines. Who would have thought that so much more than energy could be derived from these off shore turbines?
Posted by Spirit Dog (6 comments )
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sea birds & wind turbines
Most of these very large turbines are very low RPM and therefore most sea birds can fly through the paths of the moving blades with reasonable safety.
Posted by S. Houston (10 comments )
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Hurricane protection?
I wonder, would the intensity of hurricanes hitting the US Gulf & East coasts be reduced, if there were scads of big wind turbines offshore, sucking the energy out of the storms? People would love it, until scientists discovered that those hurricanes provided some important service that we had never before noticed, like bringing rain water inland or something.

Nothing is free, and especially not energy. So use it carefully.
Posted by dmm (336 comments )
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Trivial beyond all measure
The amount of energy converted by the turbines is trivial beyond all measure. If 10 Million turbines were placed off shore. The ocean is big. The atmosphere is bigger. The little generators that MIT are talking about are just a tiny little grain of sand at the bottom of of a vast three denominational energy field.

The energy output of a nuclear bomb would be quickly lost in the convection currents that make off shore winds. (The radioactivity would be less than fun)
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
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Liberals always oppose wind power in their neighborhoods
Liberals always oppose wind power in their neighborhoods. Hypocrites.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
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Another right wing moron gets a computer.

If you'd bother to check the one case where this may be true you'd
find that most of the opposition to this wind project is coming from
rich Republicans who don't want their view spoiled. One liberal
Senator and thousands of right wingers make up the majority of

I bet Rush forgot to mention that though, huh!
Posted by kelgraff (22 comments )
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I think you'll find it's not a case of liberal vs conservative...
but NIMBY.

Such thoughtless generalizations on your part reveal you're political leanings and tired philosophy...
Posted by aaroberts (82 comments )
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Oh, I see...
And "conservative" means to run up $500 billion budget deficits, enlarging the federal government, extending farm subsidies, and liquidating as many civil liberties as possible? I'm always happy when somebody gives me "solid" definitions...
Posted by Some1960Guy (1 comment )
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