USA: Floating Wind Turbines on Great Lakes

Grand Valley State University and Michigan Technological University joined a public-private business in search for funding of the initial engineering and design of the new floating turbine technology for the Great Lakes, according to Associated Press.

Lead agency, requesting funding from the Department of Energy, is Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. Its group includes GVSU’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, along with marine transportation company Andrie Specialized and Holland-based turbine blade manufacturer Energetx Composites.

With the existing anchoring technology the wind turbine towers would be placed 6 miles off shore in Muskegon areas, where they would be completely visible from the coast. Glosten chief engineer said that with their PelaStar floating system this would not be a problem. Their floating wind turbine platforms would allow placement in greater water depths so the turbines would be located where they cannot be seen from the coast. Glosten has been developing this technology for six years.

The PelaStar floating system technology enables the turbine tower to be placed on a platform about 50 feet below the surface, where the platform cannot be moved by waves or ice and it is highly buoyant. It is kept in place with tendons attaching it in that way to lake or sea bottom anchors, said Charles Nordstrom, the senior engineer on the Glosten Associates PelaStar project. The tension between the platform and the anchor system makes a stable base for large turbine towers.

Glosten estimates that the cost of the PelaStar system is up to 25 percent less than offshore foundation systems now being used in Europe.

The funding has been sought from a $200 million program for offshore demonstration projects on both ocean coasts, in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Great Lakes. The first phase for engineering and design requires a 20 percent match for the available $20 million, and the second phase for actual construction needs a 50 percent match for the available $180 million. Federal decisions on funding should be announced in the fall.

“The consortium is looking for partners to help finance the project,” said Arn Boezaart, MAREC director and member of the former Michigan Offshore Wind Council. “The federal government eventually wants a prototype designed, engineered and in the water.” 

Offshore WIND staff, April 26, 2012

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