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WindFlip proposes a unique method of deploying offshore wind turbines

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January 3, 2012

The proposed WindFlip system would use barges that sink stern-first into the ocean, for tr...

The proposed WindFlip system would use barges that sink stern-first into the ocean, for transporting and placing large offshore wind turbines

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While large offshore turbines can be very effective at harnessing the power of the wind, they do pose at least one challenge - how do you get them out into the ocean? One option is to bring them to their deployment site on board a ship, partially assembled, then put them together on location. Doing that kind of work on the pitching deck of a ship can be challenging, however, and requires crews to stay out at sea longer. Another option involves towing them from shore in their final, vertical orientation, but this requires an uninterrupted channel of deep water, and limits the speed at which they can be transported. Now, Norwegian company WindFlip is developing an alternative method that can accommodate shallow water, while allowing for relatively high transport speeds and a minimum amount of time spent putting the turbines in place.

At the heart of the WindFlip system are custom-designed 100 by 30-meter (300 by 90-foot) barges, which are towed behind conventional tugboats. A completely-assembled turbine can be loaded horizontally onto the deck cargo cradle of one of these barges, then towed at speeds of up to 8 knots (14.8 km/h or about 8 mph).

Once at the general location, a series of 29 ballast tanks within the barge start to fill with water, causing it to gradually sink stern-first into the water. This continues until the barge and the attached turbine have flipped 90 degrees, so that the turbine is sitting in its working, upright state. The turbine is then released from the barge and towed into its exact desired location by the tugboat, where it is secured in place using a pre-installed mooring system.

The WindFlip barge would begin to fill with water once in place, sinking stern-first into ...

The barge, meanwhile, uses compressed air to blow the water out of its ballast tanks. This allows it to return to its normal horizontal orientation, so it can be towed back to shore and reused.

Currently, the WindFlip system is still a concept. However, its designers are reportedly working with Norway's Statoil, to optimize the system for use with that company's HyWind floating turbines.

The video below illustrates how the system would work.

Source: Clean Technica

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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13 Comments

Nice idea but I think building an erector/launch cradle on one end and a set of ballast tanks on the end of a conventional barge would be more cost effective.

Slowburn
3rd January, 2012 @ 05:34 pm PST

Nice idea but ... what about 4 wind turbines connected together as a cross. By powering the turbines they become motors and you can then fly the assembly as a quadrocopter. Fly above where you want to put them, press a button to split and they fall towards the sea. A spike in the base of each, combined with the force due to acceleration, and each turbine should plant itself in the seabed.

Plan B - build the turbine/quatdorcopter as a group of 4 on a circular tube. Land the tube on water, then submerge with the tube becoming the base for the group

Richard Vahrman
4th January, 2012 @ 02:55 am PST

@Richard - I thought we were trying to save power here? and how do you propose powering those blades while it's in the air? Sounds more like pie in the sky rather than wind turbine in the sky... *should plant itself in the seabed*... hard cheese if it doesn't!! LOL

agulesin
4th January, 2012 @ 05:18 am PST

This approach seems much faster and less labor intensive. I think it will be a winner.

Carlos Grados
4th January, 2012 @ 06:26 am PST

Richard, while some turbines are built upon foundations on the seabed, these are deep water turbines and therefore remain bouyant. So no spikes etc.

My one class in Naval Architecture tells me that both bodies would have to be ballasted such that upon detachment they do not slip relative to each other. That may seem simple but I bet in practice it is much more difficult.

This design reminds me of the US Navy's research vessel that uprights itself at sea to create a work platform. On that note, why does the barge have to support the entire tower? Why not use part of the bouyancy of the tower and create a smaller float at the generator end? It would seem to make uprighting the contraption much easier.

TheDuke
4th January, 2012 @ 06:59 am PST

Wow--seems so obvious--of course--after someone else has worked out all the details.

Richard, I think you might have watched a bit too much of Inspector Gadget.

yrag
4th January, 2012 @ 07:16 am PST

Better yet why dont we just stick decommissioned helicopters in the ocean to generate power?

Peter Kowalchuk-Reid
4th January, 2012 @ 11:03 am PST

re; Peter Kowalchuk-Reid

I hope that is snark.

Slowburn
4th January, 2012 @ 06:57 pm PST

Vahrman: lay off the weed, or at least don't post when stoned. In addition to failing to address the huge battery bank required to drive the blades, the fluid dynamics in the design of a blade to extract power from 30 mph winds at 6-8 rpm is far different than that of one designed to be driven by a 1,000 hp turbine engine at 300 rpm and tip speeds approaching mach 1.

Stan Ubeki
5th January, 2012 @ 03:38 am PST

Isn't is amazing that this very low efficiency approach to trying to extract energy from 3 bladed propellers designed in 1946 prevails.

It's asl if efficiency in the engineering world is being totally ignored... a rupture in logic that blindly continues.

The best way to extract energy from the wind is to resist it like a spinnaker not a damned propeller.

There is something corrupt in deep denial going on as if humanity is incapable of understanding the the Betz limit can be easily hit and never with these absurd contraptions.

Bill

Island Architect
5th January, 2012 @ 09:36 am PST

Even Morbo knows "Windmills don't work that way!"

TheDuke
5th January, 2012 @ 11:25 am PST

Bill Island Architect, I hope your buildings are better than your windgen knowledge.

Please info me just what kind of windgen beat a good 3 blade one?

And I do build windgens plus sailboats, very fast ones. And no way a drag device like a spinnaker is going to beat a 3blade unit.

Back to the article the design is overly complycated. this calls abviously for a cat just like sub support vessels, balance the windgen at it's CG and just pivot it up, no fuss, muss. And a cat is far faster than any tug. Saying tug and fast together, really!!

jerryd
5th January, 2012 @ 02:36 pm PST

It seems to me that everyone's busy reinventing the wheel, by reinventing the wheel. So-called "Wind Turbines" are exactly that - wind turbines, regardless of their location. They are also usually configured as three bladed propellers, which come under constant fire from environmentalists as being harmful to endangered species - submerged or airborne. (And, somehow, I don't think adding more blades would assuage those concerns.) Adding insult to injury, they are all geared to capturing energy from capricious sources. Sources that fluctuate greatly between none through too much in comparatively short periods of time. Almost all seem to be variations on one or two of the same theme; the most popular being spinning propellers capturing fickle wind or variable tidal currents; or what I'd describe as "Wave Flappers" that, while wave action is more predictable to a greater or lesser degree, they are still subject to the same variability factors of both the strength and direction.

Myron J. Poltroonian
6th January, 2012 @ 03:36 pm PST
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