Floating Wind Farms are About to Transform the Oceans

Excerpt from theatlantic.com

Alla Weinstein did not invent the floating wind turbine. This is something she wanted to make clear early in our Zoom call, as if she were worried I’d give her too much credit. “I don’t need to invent. There are plenty of inventions,” she said. “But a lot of inventions die on the grapevine if they aren’t carried through.” What Weinstein does is carry them through.

For that, she does want credit. When I asked if she’d put the idea of floating offshore wind generation in the minds of California’s energy commissioners, she bristled cheerfully. “I would put it more strongly than that,” she said, shaking her auburn curls. “I didn’t give anyone ideas. I basically told them, ‘This is what needs to be done.’” The state needed clean energy, she reasoned, and she knew a couple of inventors with the technology to produce it: a floating platform designed to support a wind turbine on the surface of just about any large water body in the world.

If you haven’t been following the tortured saga of offshore wind power—or even if you have—you may not recognize how completely floating offshore wind technology stands to alter the global energy landscape. Just 10 years ago, installing offshore wind in the Eastern Pacific Ocean was technologically impossible: Conventional wind turbines typically sit atop giant steel cylinders called “monopiles,” which have to be driven into the ocean floor and rarely sink deeper than 100 feet. Other structures, known as “four-legged jackets,” can go as deep as 200 feet. But the continental shelf off California breaks fast and steep, dropping to depths of more than 600 feet not far from shore. Floating platforms, meanwhile, can sit on the surface of oceans thousands of feet deep, and can be assembled onshore and towed to their various destinations—as far out as transmission cables buried in the seafloor can extend back to land.