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The world's first floating wind farm only switched on three months ago but it's already performing better than expected—and that's despite a hurricane, a powerful winter storm and waves as high as 8.2 meters (27 feet).
The 30-megawatt Hywind Scotland, located about 15 miles off the Aberdeenshire coast, churned out 65 percent of its maximum theoretical capacity during November, December and January, according to its operator, Statoil.
In comparison, the typical capacity factor for a bottom fixed offshore wind farm is 45-60 percent during the same winter months, Statoil pointed out.
"We have tested the Hywind technology in harsh weather conditions for many years and we know it works," said Beate Myking, senior vice president of offshore wind operations in Statoil.
"It is very encouraging to see how well the turbines have performed so far. Hywind Scotland's high availability has ensured that the volume of electricity generated is substantially higher than expected."
These results show great promise for the emerging technology. As EcoWatch previously detailed, floating turbines have been deployed before, but mostly in small-scale projects, such as the 7-megawatt system built and operated by the Fukushima Wind Offshore Consortium. In contrast, the Hywind's five floating turbines produce 6 megawatts each on top of waters more than 328 feet deep. At full capacity, the facility can generate enough power for 20,000 homes.
As Bloomberg explained, typical offshore wind farms are installed on seabeds in relatively shallow seas. But with a floating system, countries like Japan, the U.S. West Coast, and the Mediterranean—where seabeds drop steeply off the coast—can also utilize the technology.
Statoil sees "great potential" to build more floating wind farms on top of waters around 200 feet in depth, even in areas with extreme environments and weather conditions. In October, the Hywind survived Hurricane Ophelia's 77 mph winds. It then faced even stronger winds in December, with Storm Caroline's 100 mph gusts and walls of large waves. Although the farm's wind turbines were shut down during the worst of these winds, they automatically resumed operations afterwards, Statoil said.
"Knowing that up to 80 percent of the offshore wind resources globally are in deep waters (+60 meters) where traditional bottom fixed installations are not suitable, we see great potential for floating offshore wind, in Asia, on the west coast of North America and in Europe," said Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president for New Energy Solutions in Statoil.
The developers are looking to expand the technology and hope to reduce the costs of energy to €40-60 ($50-$75)/MWh by 2030, making it cost competitive with other renewable energy sources. The cost of onshore and offshore wind has seen significant reductions in recent years, with the UK's latest renewable energy auction dropping to 57.50 pounds ($76) per megawatt-hour, Bloomberg noted.
"This is an ambitious, but realistic target. Optimized design, larger and more efficient turbines, technology development and larger wind parks will drive down costs, improve infrastructure and logistics," Rummelhoff said.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.