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First floating turbine seeks winds of change in U.S.

Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 - 02:26

Sept. 29 - North America's first floating wind turbine, launched in May, is being hailed as a prototype for a future US offshore energy industry. While the small ''pilot phase'' unit, sitting off the Maine coast, produces only enough electricity to power four homes, it represents the first stage of a far more ambitious project. Tara Cleary reports.

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North America's first floating wind turbine, launched in May, is being hailed as a prototype for a future US offshore energy industry. While the small "pilot phase" unit, sitting off the Maine coast, produces only enough electricity to power four homes, it represents the first stage of a far more ambitious project. Tara Cleary reports. STORY: It's called 'VolturnUS 1:8', and it's North America's first floating windmill. Developed at the University of Maine - the turbine is a prototype of a much larger version still under development for future deployment, according to Elizabeth Viselli. SOUNDBITE: ELIZABETH VISELLI, MANAGER OF GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS, ADVANCED STRUCTURES AND COMPOSITES CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF MAINE, SAYING (English): "It's one eight the scale of a full size five to six megawatt turbine. So this particular unit behind me can power a couple of suburban homes, but primarily we're using it to validate coupled numerical models, which are engineering tools used to design full scale units." Project director, Habib Dagher, says that, once built, each full-size unit will produce enough energy to power two to three thousand homes. SOUNDBITE: HABIB J. DAGHER, DIRECTOR, ADVANCED STRUCTURES AND COMPOSITES CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF MAINE, SAYING (English): "The rotor diameter would be 1 1/2 football fields. Each blade would be the wingspan of 747 400 jetliner, each single blade. So these are large units. Hub height would be from the water level to the hub of the unit, would be close to 300 feet, so it's almost like a 30 to 35-story building." Offshore windmills have several advantages over land-based turbines - wind speeds at sea are much higher and they peak in the late afternoon when electricity demand is greatest. And whereas seabed-mounted turbines are enormously costly to install, floating windmills - like 'VolturnUS 1:8' - can be built on land and then towed out to sea, at much lower cost. SOUNDBITE: HABIB J. DAGHER, DIRECTOR, ADVANCED STRUCTURES AND COMPOSITES CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF MAINE, SAYING (English): "The goal is to bring the cost of offshore wind down by 2020 so it's competitive with other forms of electricity and that opens up a large offshore wind resource in the U.S. and globally. To put things in perspective, within 50 miles of the U.S. shores there's enough offshore capacity to power the U.S. four times over." And for coastal residents who consider wind farms an eyesore, Dagher's team has a solution. . SOUNDBITE: HABIB J. DAGHER, DIRECTOR, ADVANCED STRUCTURES AND COMPOSITES CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF MAINE, SAYING (English): "It is our intention to put these over 20 miles offshore and because the curvature of the earth they are far enough that you can't see them anymore, they drop off beyond the horizon. So we call them 'beyond the horizon farms.'" The U.S. currently gets around three and a half percent of its electric power from wind - much less than Europe, which boasts seven percent. But it's developers believe 'VolturnUS 1:8' could generate a new climate of acceptance for clean, sea-based, sustainable power in the U.S.

First floating turbine seeks winds of change in U.S.

Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 - 02:26

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