The country of Norway, more known in the energy industry for it highly profitable fossil fuel enterprises, is providing a seed capital grant for a unique solution to harvesting renewable wind power from floating platforms.
A conceptual illustration of the relative size of one of Wind Catching Systems' 126-micro-turbine planar arrays, built for floating installations. Photo: Wind Catching Systems
The investment is for Wind Catching Systems, a Norwegian startup founded in 2017 to consider alternative approaches to generating wind power when on board a floating rather than fixed stationary platform. What they determined was that the conventional fixed platform approach of using large single wind turbines was far from optimal for a floating platform. In its place, they proposed and began testing arrays of much smaller turbines on a single floating vessel.
The reason for going offshore to gather wind is that offshore wind patterns are usually more stable and stronger than equivalent ones which are land-based. But then there came the problem of how to make it easier and less costly to install such systems in the waters than is required for conventional offshore fixed single-turbine solutions.
The founders of Wind Catching Systems found their solution in partnership with contractors Aibel AS and the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE). They eventually created core patented technology for a giant floating platform consisting of many relatively tiny turbines which generate around one megawatt each.
They are now about to produce a real-world operational prototype of their concept, thanks to an injection of $2.5 million of seed capital courtesy of investment company Enova, an energy innovation company owned by Norway’s Ministry of Climate and the Environment.
What that money will pay for the engineering design, construction, and test of one of those prototype micro wind turbines. The architectural concept they are part of would eventually include 126 of those systems, arranged in a planar array in a frame 1,000 by 1,200 feet in size, and eventually mounted on a floating platform. With each of the turbines generating 1 megawatt, the total power to be generated by the system would be 126 MW.
Wind Catching Systems says their proposed “micro” wind turbine frame can produce roughly five times as much power as the 8 to 15 MW generated by conventional floating wind turbines.
The grant from Enova will support all necessary design, deployment, and experiments for the mini turbine. It will be installed as a pilot project at the Mehuken wind park located on Norway’s west coast. They have already applied for a temporary license at the wind farm.
The goal is to have the first system up and running and undergoing verification tests sometime in 2023.
Assuming all goes well with those tests, the next phase is to build an array of seven such units as a test of the multi-mini-turbine platform. Following tests on that, the plan is to build the first full-scale deployment of the 126 unit planar turbine array.
Conceptual illustration of what a wind farm featuring Wind Catching Systems' solutions might look like. Photo: Wind Catching Systems
Nils Kristian Nakstad, CEO of Enova SF, expressed excitement and optimism about what this new technology could make possible.
“This project challenges the conventional technology for offshore wind,” Nakstad said. “Our mission is to support technology development and we will follow Wind Catching Systems with interest going forward.”
This technology development is part an ambitious plan by the government of Norway to allocate areas within its adjacent waters where it can construct offshore wind systems capable of generating 30,000 MW of renewable energy. Keys to making that possible are innovations like those of Wind Catching Systems which can be rolled out in the near future.
“If we succeed in bringing down the costs of floating offshore wind,”said Climate and Environment Minister Espen Barth Eide as the announcement was made about the investment in Wind Catching Systems, “offshore wind can become an important source of renewable energy and a major industrial opportunity for Norway.”