The world’s first floating wind farm has already exceeded expectations

Hywind is the first commercial floating wind farm, located more than 15 miles off the coast of Aberdeenshire, Scotland in the North Sea. Built by Norwegian conglomerate Statoil, the six turbines came online last October, generating 30MW of power.

Since that time, the wind farm has exceeded expectations, with a 65 percent capacity factor over the last three months. As noted at Ars Technica, capacity factor is a measure of a power plant’s production against its maximum capability. Nuclear plants, for example, have a capacity factor of nearly 100% because they’re always running.

By comparison, according to the U.S. Energy Department, solar photovoltaic generation averaged 27 percent in 2017, with conventional hydropower such as dams averaging about 45 percent. It’s an encouraging development for the future of renewable energy.

The strong offshore winds produce a lot of electricity, but even the huge wind turbines have their limits. The wind farm weathered hurricane Ophelia in October, with gusts of up to 80 mph, followed by a December storm that produced winds as high as 100 mph and 27-foot-high waves.

“Whilst the wind turbines shut down for safety reasons during the worst of these winds, they automatically resumed operation promptly afterwards,” Statoil wrote in a post on its website. “A pitch motion controller is integrated with the Hywind turbine’s control system and will adjust the angle of the turbine blades during heavy winds which mitigates excessive motions of the structure.”

wind farm

The turbines are massive floating structures, more than 830 feet tall with nearly a third of that below sea level. The blades themselves are more than 245 feet long.

Winds are stronger during the winter months, of course, so the capacity numbers don’t reflect the year-round output. Still, Hywind can power as many as 20,000 homes, and the company is hoping that innovation and technology will drive the price down even further. By 2030, the company wants to lower cost to $50 to $75 per MWh.

“This is an ambitious, but realistic target,” said a Statoil spokesperson. “Optimized design, larger and more efficient turbines, technology development, and larger wind parks will drive down costs, improve infrastructure and logistics.”

The company points out that fixed wind farms can only be built in certain locations close to shore, but their floating turbines aren’t restricted to shallow waters. “The west coast of the USA, Japan, and Hawaii are all places that need a lot of energy and that are consistently windy, but where the sea is very deep,” said engineer Halvor Hoen Hersleth. “Floating wind power is ideal for these areas.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

Microsoft’s latest patent paves the way for Andromeda dual-screen mobile device

The latest patent discovery from Microsoft showcases a new hinge design for quickly opening a dual-screen mobile device with a single hand. Could this be additional proof surrounding the rumors of the company's Project Andromeda device?
Computing

Microsoft’s Chromium Edge browser may be adding your Chrome extensions

Fans sticking to Google Chrome because due to its vast extension library might be able to switch over to Microsoft's latest iteration of Edge, as a project manager confirms that the company has its eyes on Chrome extensions.
Cars

Bloodhound’s plan to build a 1,000-mph car has run out of gas

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has officially shut down. The upside is you can now buy a 135,000-horsepower car powered by a jet engine and a cluster of rockets for $319,000.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.