Norwegian startups have been coming up with innovative ideas of offshore wind power, and the latest idea is a 300m tall “windcatcher” floating on the sea to capture the enormous wind energy from the ocean. The product also claims to generate an annual power volume that is 5 times the amount of the currently largest 15MW wind turbines, with a cost that is on par with thermal power.
The floating windcatcher released by Norwegian startup Wind Catching Systems (WCS) stands at 324m tall, and looks like the above schematic. Several hundreds of small wind turbines (117 units installed in the schematic) are installed on the windcatcher after a floating platform is installed through the existing petroleum and offshore engineering method. WCS believes that a single windcatcher has two times the swept area of the largest 15MW wind turbine in the world, and the varied sizes of wind turbines within the windcatcher are able to exert their respective advantages under different wind speed.
For example, the smaller wind turbines would operate and generate electricity under a wind speed of 40-43/km, whereas the larger ones can reduce on power generation volume and implement protection through the inclined angle. WCS commented that this particular set up would elevate the annual power generation volume by 500%, and satisfy the power consumption of 80K households in Europe.
This power generation equipment also facilitates easy installation. The windcatcher is formed with multiple small components, where most operations can be implemented on the deck once the floating platform is established, which exempts cranes and special ships, and makes it easier for maintenance. The windcatcher has a lifespan of 50 years, which is much longer than traditional large wind turbines at 30 years, as commented by WCS.
Owing to easy installation, high power generation, and prolonged lifespan, WCS believes that the LCOE of the windcatcher is on par with traditional thermal power. Offshore wind power in Norway currently has a LCOE of US$105/MWh, and the data of the EIA shows that the LCOE of offshore wind power will be US$115.04/MWh in 2026, where some regions could possibly go below US$100.
Although the cost of the windcatcher will remain higher than that of onshore wind power and solar power in the future, the cost of power generation may be worthy of anticipation judging by what WCS said regarding how “5 units of windcatchers generate roughly the same level of power as 25 units of traditional wind turbines”. WCS also pointed out that the relevant cost will only continue to decrease alongside the expansion of installation scale.
The startup has received funds from North Energy and Ferd, and also works with offshore wind power supplier Aibel and the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), though WCS has yet to announce the prototype and further details, thus the feasibility of the project remains to be seen, despite having provided a concept schematic.
The startup aims to complete technical verification in 2021 and propose a commercial development solution during 2022. WCS CEO Ole Heggheim commented that the commercialization of this breakthrough technology will elevate power generation efficiency of wind farms and reduce 80% of land usages; its aim is to develop electricity on par with other energy with no subsidization given to clients.
(Cover photo source: Wind Catching)