back to article White House puts $50m into floating wind turbine projects

The Biden Administration plans to invest heavily in the expansion of offshore wind energy, with a particular focus on floating turbines that can be placed where ocean breezes have more energy-generating potential. Through the series of programs and funding opportunities, the White House hopes to reduce the costs of floating …

  1. Gordon 10

    Quite literally a drop in the Ocean

    If they want to be serious about wind power they should add a few more noughts to that number. Too little too late.

    Besides don’t some oil rigs already float?

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Quite literally a drop in the Ocean

      You have to start somewhere.

      Yes oil rigs already float but 1) they don't have to have a cable back to shore and 2) they don't deliberately try to capture as much of the wind blowing by as possible.

      I'm sure an oil rig would be a bit more difficult to handle if it had a giant sail on top trying to make it move with the wind and want to tip over. Probably a floating wind turbine requires better anchoring than a floating oil rig.

      1. Trollslayer
        Thumb Up

        Re: Quite literally a drop in the Ocean


      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Quite literally a drop in the Ocean

        Probably a floating wind turbine requires better anchoring than a floating oil rig? No an oil rig would almost certainly have more drag than a wind turbine. Rotating blades only catch at best 40% of the available power. Sails on rails are actually better!

        1. Lars Silver badge

          Re: Quite literally a drop in the Ocean

          It's far from only about the wind there is also tide and sea currents to deal with.

          Cannot be too difficult to deal with though.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Quite literally a drop in the Ocean

        "Probably a floating wind turbine requires better anchoring than a floating oil rig."

        It does. Just look at the existing floating offshore wind turbines.

        That prize money and the way it's being put over, it almost feels as though the US has come up with a new idea and suddenly wants to develop it and become a world leader.

        Maybe it's just the articles author and the way he wrote it, but it doesn't even offer a nod to the existing technology.

        1. stiine Silver badge

          Re: Quite literally a drop in the Ocean

          Do you mean sailing ships?

      4. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: Quite literally a drop in the Ocean

        "You have to start somewhere" Indeed, and the PRC is already well advanced.

      5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Quite literally a drop in the Ocean

        Powering 5 million homes in 2035 means about 3% of domestic electricity use in the US. It's a drop.

        "You have to start somewhere" is essentially equivalent to "let's not try to figure out which approaches make sense first".

        Offshore wind might be viable, and research into improving the cost-efficiency of turbines is not a bad idea in itself, but nothing in the article indicates this is a sensible area to actually develop for practical use – yet.

    2. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: Quite literally a drop in the Ocean

      You mean semi-submersibles?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

    The USA could learn a lot from how offshore wind has evolved in Europe but they seem to want to re-invent the wheel. That's not unusual in the USA. NIH means a lot more than 'National Institute of Health'.

    Their target strike price of $48/MWh is AFAIK higher than what the North Sea is already operating at.

    I can't help but think that the current POTUS has at least one hand of big oil up his posterior.

    1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

      Our current POTUS is also drawing up battle plans to defeat Jerry in the trenches. And you think he's heard of other nations making power with those new fangled floating sideways propellers?

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

      >Their target strike price of $48/MWh is AFAIK higher than what the North Sea is already operating at.

      The North Sea is very shallow

      The pacific off the California / Washington coast is very deep, and gets deep very fast.

      The east coast has shallow seas but has storms and nimbys. The great^4 grandchildren who inherited their ocean front homes from 19C industrial barons strangely don't want their view spoiled.

      The tech billionaires in California think the wind turbines look cool, but it's currently slightly expensive to buidl them in 4000m deep water

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

        "The North Sea is very shallow"

        Mostly, which has been a bit of a boon for offshore wind, but not only is it not all shallow, there are other seas and coasts around the UK, some of which are busy shipping lanes and fishing grounds. The UK has floating wind turbines out there now.

        "The world's first floating wind farm, the 30 MW Hywind Scotland pilot park, has been in operation since 2017, demonstrating the feasibility of floating wind farms that could be ten times larger."

        So, R&D started some time ago and 5 years experience of running the system. More research, if shared, is always welcome though.

        1. herman Silver badge

          Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

          Hywind is the second one. The first is in Portugal.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

            According to Wikipedia

            The world's first commercial floating offshore windfarm, Hywind Scotland, was commissioned in 2017.[40] It uses 5 Siemens turbines of 6 MW each, has a capacity of 30 MW and is sited 18 miles (29 km) off Peterhead. The project also incorporates a 1 MWh lithium-ion battery system (called Batwind).[6]

            WindFloat Atlantic, sited 20 km off the coast of Viana do Castelo, Portugal, has a capacity of 25 MW and has operated since July 2020.[56]

            The 48 MW Kincardine Offshore Wind Farm is the UK's second commercial floating offshore windfarm, and completed construction in August 2021.[42][57] "

            All of the first 20 or so results from Google, searching on "the first floating wind farm in the world" (without the quotes), say Wikipedia is correct. There were a couple of single test installations earlier, one off the coast of the Netherlands and one off the coast of Norway (Also called Hywind) off the coast of Norway and lead directly the Scottish Hywind farm.

      2. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

        "The North Sea is very shallow" and very, very stormy.

    3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

      Their target strike price of $48/MWh is AFAIK higher than what the North Sea is already operating at.

      That's a regulatory/market question. So the UK rigged it's market so that electricity price was based on the most expensive producer, essentially to subsidise wind power. Recently that's kinda backfired, ie gas price rises set the price for electricity now.

      That's obviously lead to a massive windfall for non-gas producers like 'renewables', because their costs are unaffected by the price of gas. This is why customers on '100% renewable' contracts are currently enjoying much cheaper electricity now. No, wait, who am I kidding.. But the media, ie the clueless Bbc gloss over this when demanding windfall taxes on evil fossil fuels. Luckily it seems Truss may be slightly less clueless, and may be including the estimated £40bn or so in wind windfalls in her plans. But a lot of it gets wrapped up in this mess-

      Successful developers of renewable projects enter into a private law contract with the Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC), a government-owned company. Developers are paid a flat (indexed) rate for the electricity they produce over a 15-year period; the difference between the ‘strike price’ (a price for electricity reflecting the cost of investing in a particular low carbon technology) and the ‘reference price’ (a measure of the average market price for electricity in the GB market).

      PFI at it's finest. But you can see the current subsidy rate for offshore CfD's here-

      which shows a broad spread of prices. But don't be fooled by some of the 'low' contracts, like Dogger Bank. Scammers have somethink like 3yrs before they have to enter into the CfD scheme, so although they should be charging say, £51/MWh, they can currently sell at market price and make bank. And because contracts are indexed, existing producers also self-inflate energy prices. So inflation's running at 10% due to price of gas/energy, CfD strike prices increases by 10%+ which is a genius move.

      But the 'renewables' lobby is desperate to keep this gravy train rolling, and is being helped along by useful idiots like John Gummer. One current 'solution' is to rethink the CfD thing, and set a 'price cap', so around £200/MWh has been floated. If you've contracted at £51/MWh currently, this is obviously a nice lil windfall. But the 'renewables' lobby keeps telling us their product is getting ever cheaper. Market prices and mechanisms don't reflect this, but they could. So we could use benchmarking rather than crudely indexed CfDs.

      Bigger problem is it still does nothing to solve the fundamental problems of 'renewables', ie intermittency, which is why we're in this mess in the first place. 'Renewables' aren't reliable, so they need back-up power, which has been gas. Oops.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

        FWIW, the current thinking is to separate non-gas 'leccy generation from other forms of generation so that gas no longer sets the price. I'd like to think that will actually happen, but...Government ;-/

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

          I'd like to think that will actually happen, but...Government ;-/

          It sounds like it might, but as always, there's lobbying. So 'agreeing' to a cap system in exchange for vastly inflated CfD strike prices.

          The whole thing needs reform, and telecomms kind of has an example, eg-

          Which focuses on cost. The 'renewables' lobby tends to gloss over that part, except when they're promoting themselves as the 'cheapest'. Which they might be, if you ignore interconnection, distribution, stand-by costs etc. Which has been the problem. If it's so cheap, why has electricity got so expensive?

          But using some form of cost+ methodolgy generally works. Government says 'gimme 50GW' because Net Zero. Potential bidders can quote based on a standardised cost model. There are still.. issues when power and energy get confused, ie 50GW isn't anything close to 50GWh, but CfDs could contract based on GWh, if that's desireable. Supplier is then obligated to deliver 50GWh at the contracted price. Sure, that would mean they'd carry the cost of intermittency, but that's perhaps better than loading it onto consumers who have no real choice but to pay up. There's also no real incentive in the energy market to control or reduce costs, in fact just the opposite when those costs can be passed through and generate huge profits for the industry. Then again, the government could do something sensible, and re-nationalise the National Grid and ESO to remove those perverse incentives.

      2. Gordon 10

        Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

        Hmmm. Let’s examine that a fraction more closely shall we?

        Oil Companies will invest in more drilling which will drive climate change. Green companies will build more green generation.

        Which one is worth having.

        A lot of reliability of generation can be dealt with via over provisioning. Again sounds like a win to me.

    4. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

      The PRC built wind farms with a total capacity of almost 100GW in 2020, a rise of nearly 60% on the previous year, which is more than the rest of world combined.  The US built just 16.5GW.

      Where is the UK? 10,973 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of over 24.2 gigawatts.

      Up to 2020, there were no major UK-based wind turbine manufacturers. Most are headquartered in Denmark, Germany, the PRC and the USA

      1. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

        Sad that facts get downvoted. No wonder we are lagging behind.

        1. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

          Someone must be getting paid by Exxon.

      2. EnviableOne

        Re: Fiddling while Big Oil carries on as usual

        look at Wind power as a percentage of total consumption, and you will find the UK considerably higher than all the other mentioned nations.

        In fact, Scotland produces more electricity than it needs, as do the Orkney and Shetland Isles

        Wind generation is approximately 30% of UK capacity, carbon neutral at over 53% (that includes DRACS "Bio-mass" (trees) which is on shaky ground)

        There is a long way to go worldwide, but the Uk is far from behind, and while the manufacturing companies might not be UK based, the Manufacturing is. The majority of UK turbines and blades are made in the UK. there are large production hubs in the north of England and up the East coast of Scotland, that are transitioning from rig building and maintenance to turbines.

  3. herman Silver badge

    There are quite a few floaters in Europe: Portugal, Scotland , Netherlands and Norway all have a few floating turbines.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      The article I read from a US news source was playing up the angle that the US would be catching up with Europe and Asia on floating wind generation.

      Not sure how much of that came from what Biden or others in government said, but I imagine framing it partially as "the US is behind and we need to catch up" will help sell it to some republicans who care more about US not falling behind in green technology than they care about green energy itself.

      This also shuts down the NIMBYs who don't want fixed offshore wind generation because it is oh so terrible they have to actually SEE turbines from shore. It is also the only feasible option for wind generation at scale on the Pacific coast, which in contrast to our Atlantic/Gulf coasts falls quickly to rather deep depths not far offshore especially along California.

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        I agree there, and think that the first batch should be put into place off the Massachusetts coast. Plenty of greenies there. Line 'em up in rows, one every 500 feet, with 5 rows staggered every 100ft.

        But, I don't want any of them near me. I'd rather see the stacks of a nice, quiet thorium nuclear reactor or two than a bunch of damned windmills.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          I know you're hoping to troll the Kennedys or whatever, but the continental shelf slopes very gently there, in order to have them in sufficiently deep water to be floating they would not be visible from the coast. You also can't put them that close together, there is optimal placement to maximize the amount of power generated.

          1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

            But but but green power!


            Besides, this chart shows that the average wind speeds off the coast are stronger than they are in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado and there are huge wind farms in all three states. The stronger winds off Massachusetts would provide far more power than they do in the middle of the US. And why have them float, anyway? If it's so shallow there, plant them in the ground. It's not like people haven't been building offshore for centuries already. Sink piers strong enough to handle the ocean, put the platform higher than the highest recorded ocean surge ever recorded, and start sticking them out there. Or do you consider rich liberal's ocean views to be more important than rich liberal claims that we need to stop using fossi fuels? Plenty of power right there at the point of use for those rich liberals.

            1. gandalfcn Silver badge

              That would have been a good post if you hadn't spoiled it with "rich liberal's"

        2. stiine Silver badge

          500ft is far too much spacing. They need to be packed and stacked like an aquatic Maginot line.

          1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

            They do need to be spaced 500 ft apart at a minimum. The blades are about 100ft long making for a 200ft span, so 500ft puts 100ft between them. Gotta be safe here. Now 5 rows of them with each row staggered 100ft effectively puts a green wind generator every 100ft.

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Modern wind turbines have considerably longer blades than that, and I remember reading about a study where they found spacing them at 4x rotor diameter (nearly 200m in some) was necessary for best performance. If they aren't all in a line and you have multiple rows they need to be even farther apart yet.

  4. Snowy Silver badge

    I hope

    While they are at it they look at designing them in a way that makes them recyclable.

    Currently a most wind turbine blades that are going end of life now are ending up in land fill.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hope

      Oh, do shut up. You're making yourself look like a complete fool.

      There's more coal ash dumped in landfills in a day than windmill blades dumped in a year.

      And unlike coal ash, windmill blades aren't toxic.

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: I hope

        Speaking of making oneself look like a fool, whataboutism is a fool's game. Besides, the fly ash problem is being worked on. What's being done to deal with windmill disposal, ie the original question here? Nothing. Fiberglass recycling is possible, but those blades go straight to the dump. They could be made with aluminum, or redesigned so that the leading edge of the blades has a a replaceable edge allowing the fiberglass portion to last longer, but all fiberglass is cheaper. No, windmills are really greenwashed energy.

      2. Snowy Silver badge

        Re: I hope

        Windmill blades may indeed not be toxic but micro plastics are becoming a worry, they are getting everywhere. Just because you have put it in a hole in the ground does not mean it is going to stay there.

        Even if they are not a source of it throwing them away is a waste of resources. Reduce Reuse, Recycle it should be more than a catchy phrase!

  5. DHBI

    Energy, not power

    US energy consumption is 3.9 TWh, not 3.9 TW. The first is energy, the second is the power. 15 GW of floating offshore wind by 2035 isn't actually that ambitious - that's about the same yield as the proposed licence acreage between Cornwall and Ireland in the Celtic Sea.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Energy, not power

      And energy consumption is power. Unless that's 3.9TWh over the whole of US history past and future (in which case what do you know that we don't ?)

      1. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

        Re: Energy, not power

        Accoding to the Energy Information Administration (EIA)

        Electricity consumption in the United States was about 3.9 trillion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2021

        So it's by year, and putting an "h" on the end would be welcome disambiguation.

    2. ChaosFreak

      Re: Energy, not power

      Actually, to be fully accurate, we are talking about electricity, not energy. Electricity is only one form of energy generation. Total energy consumption in the United States is much higher then total electricity consumption because you have to include energy derived from burning fossil fuels directly, such as in transport and heating. If these forms of energy use are eventually fully electrified, US electricity consumption will be much, much higher.

  6. Death Boffin

    California Dreaming

    This still won't fix California's problems with summer power. When that big high parks over the west, even the offshore areas don't get much wind. It also brings in monsoon clouds that block solar production. The additional heat and humidity drive up demand. That is why Governor Newsance is keeping Diablo Canyon in operations.

  7. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Has the US shrunk or something?

    Even if you reduce the cost of floating wind by 70% it will still be more expensive than land based. Mind you you'll probably be able to sell it to idiots like Truss.

  8. low_resolution_foxxes

    It sounds more like a token payment to encourage R&D in this sector. Floating wind has been around for long enough in Europe (certainly at the R&D level, with a few designs now in the final validatino stages). But if you look at the Aberdeen large floating wind turbine designs that have been operational long enough, it's hard to think why the ideas don't already exist.

    I suppose there are some issues relating to transmission. There have been a few interesting recent developments in Europe, for example transmission using hydrogen gas instead of expensive metallic cables. The bonus with hydrogen rubber pipes is that gas leaks will leave an obvious large set of bubbles leading to any breakages.

    Who knows where this will lead!

    For example, dealing with US regulatory and construction codes is a different kettle of fish. I recently worked on a US project where the constuction code required consideration of the 500 and 1000 year maximum wind speeds and earthquakes. These really aren't so common in the North sea and it was interesting to see the US insurance viewpoint of what a turbine had to survive

    1. Spazturtle Silver badge

      "The bonus with hydrogen rubber pipes is that gas leaks will leave an obvious large set of bubbles leading to any breakages."

      The designs that I have seen don't use pipes, the hydrogen is all stored in a tank and then drone ships autonomously dock with each turbine and drain it. This eliminates the need to put the turbines near the shore.

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