Wednesday, August 30, 2006

From Sea To Shining Sea

Hey, here's startling new evidence that some people in the oil industry are not bent on the destruction of the world. Sometimes those evil oil industry exploration types, when they're not engaged in corrupt and destructive practices like making a profit and encouraging our dependence on petroleum, can actually be useful for providing alternatives to fossil fuels. (Note for those of you who don't read the Meow often: I am being facetious here. I do not really think making a profit by providing energy to the world through legal means is evil, although I do think alternative sources of energy are necessary and good.) is looking at an MIT project that takes advantage of off-shore deep-sea oil-drilling expertise (I have now almost used up my hyphen quota for the day) to develop big, powerful, non-coastal-view-ruining wind-farms (quota now definitely exceeded), using floating oil drilling platforms as their model. Excerpt:

Paul D. Sclavounos, a professor of mechanical engineering and naval architecture, has spent decades designing and analyzing large floating structures for deep-sea oil and gas exploration. Observing the wind-farm controversies, he thought, "Wait a minute. Why can't we simply take those windmills and put them on floaters and move them farther offshore, where there's plenty of space and lots of wind?"

As with many things in life that are useful or necessary, a lot of folks see the benefit of wind-farms for producing power, but oftentimes people also don't want to look at them. Hundreds of giant turbines spinning in the wind may generate a good deal of electricity, but they don't do much to enhance a view. (They've been having to work out methods to keep them from killing birds, too, but that's a different post altogether.) People who may be all for alternative power, still aren't clamouring to have a whole lot of windmills blocking their view of the ocean. Apparently, up till now off-shore wind-farms have been anchored in relatively shallow water, and have been placed fairly close in to shore (because of the whole anchoring part of the equation.)

Well, three cheers for inventive scientists. They're figuring out ways to make this floating wind-farm thing work, and it looks like the floating systems will be bigger, cheaper and produce more power than other wind-farms currently churning out the wattage. The other really cool thing is that the floating system will be flexible. Each turbine will be tethered to a larger group, with individual windmills that can be detached and moved where they are most needed. I can't imagine that this would be done to compensate for every heat wave, or cold snap, but I could see this being very useful for situations where energy usage changed because of population shifts, and availability of alternatives and the like. I was asking the other day when we were going to see the really big developments that would change the energy landscape. Maybe I should have been considering things that would change the energy sea-scape as well.

Hat tip: Futurismic