Wednesday, September 20, 2006

MIT's invisible floating turbine

CNET reported on Monday that researchers from MIT and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are getting ready to unveil a wind turbine system that can sit in deep water much further off shore than present wind turbine systems can. The added distance could help render complaints about the units ruining seaside views -- views from someplace like, say, the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport.

According to the MIT prof who helped develop the system, the new wind generators should be able to generate about twice as much electricity as similar units closer to the shore, thanks to stronger, steadier off-shore winds.

CNET says the developers hope to install a half-scale test prototype off Cape Cod soon – a move that will turn out to be either incredibly audacious or inexplicably boneheaded, given the controversy siting Cape Wind has stirred up in that same area.

But, if you can make it there, maybe you can make it anywhere.

It’s too early to tell how the inevitable opposition to this technology – from someone, somewhere – will develop. Readers responding to CNET’s story seemed worried mainly about bird fatalities – ironically, the story’s headline describing the turbines as “invisible” prompted one reader to ask, “I wonder if sea birds will find these to be quite as invisible.”

(If there’s a right way to respond to that comment without stirring up some part of the birding community, I don’t what it is.)

Meanwhile, an actual question: How economical and practical will it be to transmit electricity from a site that far offshore?


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3 Comments:

At 9/26/2006 12:10 AM, Blogger Kirk Sorensen said...

Hi Kristen,

I read a great quote from Robert Samuelson of Newsweek on this topic, called "Massive Inconsistency".

I was thinking about this issue of "invisible power generation" recently, and it led me to revisit an idea that has been proposed several times before--underwater nuclear power plants.

Probably won't satisfy Ted Kennedy, but what would?

(wait, don't answer that...)

 
At 9/26/2006 5:31 PM, Blogger Kristen Nelson said...

Hi Kirk,

Samuelson's right on the money about that. Although I think we do have an obligation to protect the wilderness and I believe people should have a voice about what goes on in their community, opposition that is reflexively obstructionist drives me nuts.

(Imagine how an EIS process could change if a project's opponents had to offer their own viable alternatives to achieving the same societal benefit as the project they oppose does.)

"Invisible power" nuclear generation is intriguing, although I wonder if it would really avoid much opposition. Obviously, nuclear reactors have operated safely for years in submarines -- as you point out in your blog article -- but I'd bet a developer would hit a lot of resistance from those concerned about "what's going on in the black box under water."

(Wasn't there some discussion in Russia a few years ago about turning former Soviet subs into power stations?)

I think it's also interesting to consider how a project like the MIT turbine could combine with a tidal turbine on the same platform to create a two-fer on a single site. The economics of siting a wind turbine (or a tidal turbine) out to sea could change fast if you can up the power production.

K

 
At 6/24/2008 3:56 AM, Blogger rupakba said...

it is a matter of good concern to all of us about finding new source of clean energy. Nepal is one of the country that has a very good potential of generating energy with every drop of water that drains through the steep rivers. more than 11000 rivers and rivulets are present in this country and there is the possibility of generating the 83000 MW of energy in this country excluding the energy that can be tapped through the rivers of mild slope at its top using the floating turbines in each meter. then guess how much we can generate in 17000 km. So in broad perspective we can generate a huge amount of energy that can electrify the whole highways and the habitant on the banks.The extent of social change and the preservation of greenery would be priceless. thats why a step toward developing the technology that is feasible to this situation and an innovative application of vertical floating turbine would be a mildstone for crisis of energy.

Introducing myself as a graduate student of Institute of Engineering , Tribubhan University, kathmandu , Nepal. Kind cooperation and assistance from the professionals and intellectuals would be a gift to us.

A step toward the change of social life and preserving the environment through innovative application of technology is my motto.

Thanking
Rupak Bastola
IOE , TU

 

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