Winflo is a green floating turbine design

Add Winflo to the growing number of floating turbine designs that looks like it might make it onto the water in the next few years.

This is a project bound for French seas. Partners Nass&Wind and DCNS said they will begin building the 1-megawatt Winflo turbine this year and install it next year. The plan is to moor the device at the SEM-REV marine test site in the Bay of Biscay off the coast at Le Croisic in western France.

The Winflo concept (image via DCNS)

Floating wind turbines are thought to be the long-term future for offshore wind, which today relies on substructures that go right into the seafloor. Those substructures are expensive, and become even more expensive – and difficult to engineer – as water depth increases. That has limited development to waters generally under 30 meters deep, with just a few projects extending out to waters as much as 40 meters deep.

Water depth, distance to shore and size of offshore wind farms under construction during 2012 (image via European Wind Energy Association)

Floating turbines could change that dynamic dramatically; Winflo and others aim to be able to operate in waters deeper than 50 meters. There, they could take advantage of superior wind conditions, while also likely facing fewer conflicts (with those worried about coastal views, or with other maritime interests).

According to Windpower Monthly, the French demonstration project was originally envisioned to be a bigger turbine, between 2.5 and 3 megawatts in size. In any case, the plan is to demonstrate the effectiveness of theconcept and build out an array of floating turbines using 5-MW devices.

Winflo joins a number of floating turbine concepts that that appear to be gathering momentum. Even the U.S., which is way behind Europe in offshore wind development, is beginning to get behind the possibilities:

  • In January, Maine regulators approved a contract with global energy developer Statoil for a four-turbine, 12-megawatt pilot project a dozen miles off the state’s coast.
  • Researchers at the University of Maine plan to deploy a prototype turbine some 10 miles off the coast this spring.
  • And last December, the U.S. Department of Energy, in doling out funding for seven “advanced technology” offshore demonstration projects, offered up $4 million for a floating turbine project aimed for the waters off Coos Bay, Ore.

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling