But a group of Naval architects hopes to change that with further proof that offshore turbines are worth the investment. In the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, the group reports that wave tank testing data shows that floating platforms (similar to deepwater oil platforms) can support turbines up to 5 megawatts (MW). That’s pretty impressive considering 5 MW turbines have blades the size of a football field. And, according to Stover, “advances in composites may enable replacement of traditional steel and cast iron turbine components at a lower cost and weight,” he says.
While the malfunction of a turbine wouldn’t be ideal, especially in turbulent waters, a broken turbine would simply sink to the ocean floor instead of leaving lumpy, black surprises for beachgoers and wildlife alike. “Wind turbines are tremendously complicated electromechanical machines that are exposed to both extreme and fatigue loads based on the variability of wind conditions. The ability to more accurately model the impact of composites on structural integrity of wind turbines will be important to reducing cost, while maintaining high reliability and design life for future turbines,” states Stover.