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World's Largest Floating Wind Farm Gets Green Light

Offshore wind has come a long way in recent years, in large part because of how heavily the UK has invested in the technology. But most of this development has been with conventional wind technology, which requires that the turbines be mounted to the seafloor or lakebed in relatively shallow water.


Floating turbines have been deployed, but so far only in small-scale projects, such as the one built and operated by the Fukushima Wind Offshore Consortium. But that could all change soon, now that Norway's Statoil has been approved to build the first floating wind farm off the Scottish coast. It will be the UK's first floating wind farm and the world's largest to date, with five floating turbines producing 6 megawatts each in waters more than 328 feet deep.

The project, known as Hywind Scotland, will be located near Buchan Deep, approximately 15-18 miles off the coast of Peterhead in Aberdeen. The farm "could eventually generate 135 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year, enough to power nearly 20,000 homes," reports Edie.net.

Statoil is touting its experience in installing and operating floating offshore oil and gas platforms as part of its credentials for the project. "Hywind has been designed as a slender cylinder structure, chosen as the most feasible and economical concept for a floating wind turbine," says Statoil. The company developed and installed the world's first floating full-scale wind turbine in 2009.

The turbines will be "attached to the seabed by a three-point mooring spread and anchoring system" and "are interconnected by cables, one of which exports electricity from the pilot farm to the shore at Peterhead," explains The Guardian.

Floating turbines have many attractive benefits, according to Renewable Energy World:

A key advantage of using floating wind platforms is that they allow developers access to previously inaccessible waters where there is stronger yet less turbulent winds—helping to reduce the overall cost of wind energy.

Another benefit is that floating platforms can generally be commissioned and assembled at the quayside, without the need for heavy-lift jackup or dynamic positioning (DP) vessels, further reducing the cost and risk of deployment activities.

“Eliminating offshore lifting operations also provides for decreased weather window restrictions on installation," says Craig Andrus, Senior VP—Europe at Principle Power.

The fact that foundations are not necessary with floating technology also means that piling activities and sea life disturbance can be minimized—greatly reducing negative environmental impacts. Moreover, reduced geotechnical requirements mean that core sampling is only needed to test the seabed ahead of appropriate anchor selection, as opposed to the necessity of core sampling at every pile site.

According to research from the Carbon Trust, floating wind turbines could reduce the price of offshore wind to less than $150 megawatt-hours (MWh), and larger projects such as Hywind may drop the price even lower to $130-145 MWh. The current average price is $172 MWh.

“Floating wind represents a new, significant and increasingly competitive renewable energy source," Statoil's executive vice president for new energy solutions, Irene Rummelhoff, told The Guardian. "Statoil's objective with developing this pilot park is to demonstrate a commercial, utility-scale floating wind solution, to further increase the global market potential."

"We are proud to develop this unique project in Scotland, in a region that has optimal wind conditions, a strong supply chain within oil and gas and supportive public policies," she added.

You may have heard of Aberdeen in the news, as it is the proposed location of another wind farm: Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm. The project has been stalled for years because Donald Trump, who has a golf resort in Aberdeen, sued the Scottish government over its approval of the wind farm. Trump lost the appeal in June, but he has vowed to appeal before both the UK Supreme Court and the European Courts.

Here's Statoil's explanation of the Hywind Scotland concept:

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Earth Day Tips From the EcoWatch Team

At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

Favorite Product: Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

It's Earth-friendly, lasts for months and can be used as soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even mouthwash (but I wouldn't recommend that).

Essential Tool: Blender

It has paid for itself in homemade smoothies, soups, sauces and dips. It also means I don't have to buy those individual foods in unnecessary plastic containers. Blending scraps helps your compost, too!

Earth Day Tip: Skip the straw

If you feel weird about saying "no straw" at restaurants, just tell the waiter that you're allergic to plastic.

Olivia Rosane, reporter

Favorite Product: Seventh Generation products

Their household cleaning and personal care products are a great way to take care of yourself and your home in a way that is safe both for your health and the planet. Plus, their packaging is made from recycled materials and is designed to be recycled again.

Essential Tool: My portable thermos

I bring it with me when I order coffee or tea to go. That way I don't have to use paper cups, which are not actually recyclable, and some coffee shops even offer me a discount for bringing my own container!

Earth Day Tip: Get involved

In 2012, researcher Brad Werner ran a computer model and found our best shot at combating climate change was for people to form a mass social movement to demand it. So if you're worried about the environment, reach out to other people in your community and talk about what you can do together to make a difference!

Tara Bracco, managing editor

Favorite Product: Collapsible water bottle

Whether you're traveling or running errands, a reusable water bottle that's light and compact will help keep you hydrated and keep you from buying bottled water.

Essential Tool: Backpack

It's great for carrying your groceries home from the store, and you won't have to use plastic bags. If you have a long shopping list, try a rolling suitcase.

Earth Day Tip: Don't waste water

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. It can save eight gallons of water a day!

Chris McDermott, news editor

Favorite Product: Clothes from Patagonia

Patagonia makes a wide range of inspired products and their environmental policies are world class. They use only organic cotton in their clothes, and they even offer trade-ins, recycling and repairs at any time.

Essential Tool: RIVER mobile power station and solar generator

This powerful piece of mind is always ready regardless of storms and travel, for as long as one can tap the sun.

Earth Day Tip: Savor something vegan

There's no nutritional substitute for fresh, unprocessed food, but food science has revolutionized the taste and texture of vegan alternatives. For the pure delight of it, celebrate with Miyoko's Kitchen vegan cheese, Tofurky Italian sausage (30 grams of protein per serving!) and SoDelicious non-dairy dark chocolate truffle frozen dessert made with cashew milk.

Irma Omerhodzic, associate editor

Favorite Product: Living Libations's Everybody Loves the Sunshine

Unlike sunscreen, this skin product works with the sun and helps absorb the nutrients from the sun's rays while giving skin protection at the same time.

"Rather than being afraid of the sun, harmonize with it," Living Libations says. Love it!

Essential Tool: My bike

Not only is this an emission-free way to get around town, but it also gives my body the activity it needs.

Earth Day Tip: Start small

Your one "small" action isn't small at all.

Jordan Simmons, social media coordinator

Favorite Product: Sustainable clothing by Amanda Sage Collection

Designer Lana Gurevich uses patterns from Amanda's transformative paintings to create an ethically and environmentally conscious clothing line. While supporting local businesses and an eco-friendly printing method, the fabrics are made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles.

Essential Tool: My paintbrush and set of mineral paints

I found the all natural, biodegradable mineral paints at a local farmers' market in the Sacred Valley of Peru. I used to favor working with acrylic paints until I learned about their high carbon footprint and harmful substances.

Earth Day Tip: Honor Mother Earth

Gather some of Mother Nature's gifts such as stones, beautiful dried leaves and feathers. Set them in a special place in your home to create a unique "altar" to remind you to honor your Mother each and every day. Find peace and blessings in loving our home—the earth.

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Planet Earth is at a crisis point. Researchers say we have to begin reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 if we want to meet the temperature goals outlined in the Paris agreement and avoid catastrophic climate change.

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In March, a diver's video of masses of plastic floating off the Indonesian coast went viral. But that plastic often reaches the ocean through the country's rivers, clogging them to such an extent that Indonesia had to call in the army, the BBC reported Thursday.

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