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Surprising Science

Energy’s Future: Flying & Floating Wind Farms

Offshore wind farms have access to stronger, more consistent winds and new technology will allows them to float in the sea. Next, wind farms may fly to capture atmospheric winds. 

What’s the Latest Development?

An ongoing experiment in the rough North Sea could make new, floating wind farms a reality in a variety of difficult locations including US coastal areas. The Hywind project, set to finish later this year, has generated 15MWh of energy since 2010 and could help promote new offshore power projects. “Though turbines on land still dominate the field, offshore sites are expected to grow rapidly, especially if floating turbines can make electricity cheaply enough to compete.” The economics of offshore wind favour fewer, larger turbines.

What’s the Big Idea?

A German company is currently working on an ambitious flying wind farm which would capture the energy of wind high in the Earth’s atmosphere, where there is enough energy to potentially power the planet. “The firm SkySails has drawn on its experience of designing enormous kites to tow cargo ships, to develop offshore wind systems that generate electricity as the kite pulls cable from a drum.” After the kite is fully extended and has collected wind energy from the air, it will be steered into a quiet area and reeled in again. 

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