Tech Company Develops Pop-Up Turbines

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2023


A team at wind technology company Aikido Technologies is reportedly developing a new type of offshore wind turbine, designed to be easier and faster to deploy.

The pop-up wind turbines are meant to fill an important gap in the construction of wind farms, as certain areas are geographically unfit for current turbines, according to a report from Fast Company.

About the Technology

In the report, Aikido states that it expects that its new innovation will make it possible to capture wind power in challenging locations—such as off the coast of California, where there are strong winds and the water is too deep to attach a turbine to the seafloor.

Aikido’s turbine platform can reportedly fold up and can be laid down horizontally in order to decrease the space needed to deploy it. Additionally, the platform could be built in less space at a crowded port, and when folded up and sent out to sea, it could fit on a smaller vessel.

After adding water to ballasts in a two-step process, the platform can reportedly pop up from horizontal to vertical.

The report states that the platform is connected to the seafloor by mooring lines, a technique that has been used for equipment in the offshore oil and gas industry.

The team adds that it currently uses regular wind blades on the turbines, though are also working on new blades that have been designed specifically for floating wind turbines.

The new system, the report explains, could be 25% to 30% less expensive than current offshore wind.

Turbine Research

In May, the team conducted research in the Netherlands using a deep indoor pool with a wave machine to simulate the open ocean, testing a 10-foot scale model of the turbines. At first, according to Fast Company, the tower floated flat on its side, but as ballasts at its base filled with water, it began to pull itself upright.

Aikido’s founders had reportedly worked at another startup in the nascent industry and recognized the difficulty of the process moving forward.

“The main challenge that we saw was that it would be really difficult to scale the technology,” said cofounder and CEO Sam Kanner.

“Floating wind turbines are just larger than any other vessel that exists today, in every dimension. They’re wider and taller and generally deeper than some of the largest ships or vessels that we have.”

The report says that the model tested in the tank was only a fraction of the final size, which is expected to be around 300 feet long. Additionally, in its lab in the Bay Area of California, the company is reportedly testing 3D-printed models that are one-hundredth of the turbine’s size.

It adds that while it is possible to build regular floating turbines at a port, it would take up a large amount of space and would be difficult to get it into the water.

At the previous company Kanner worked at, one project to install floating turbines in Scotland reportedly couldn’t be built locally because there wasn’t a port there that was deep enough for the floating platform. Because of this, a platform was reportedly built in Spain and then transported to the Netherlands for the turbine to be installed. Then it was reportedly towed for over a week to reach the site.

“You can imagine if we were trying to do that for 50 units, that makes it really infeasible to do operations,” Kanner said.

According to the report, the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that floating wind power could create up to 2.8 terawatts of energy in the U.S., over two times the country’s electricity consumption.

Aikido states that first, it plans to fully deploy the turbines in California, a state that is planning to install up to 5 gigawatts of floating wind power by 2030.

“A lot of people in the industry think that is basically impossible with conventional technology, just given the port and the vessel landscape that we have today,” Kanner said, adding that Aikido’s technology “can help make that a reality.”

Aikido is reportedly a part of Breakthrough Energy Fellows, a program for early-stage startups within Breakthrough Energy, the organization founded by Bill Gates to speed up the transition to clean energy.

The company states that it plans to test the technology in the ocean next year.

More Floating Wind Farm News

In April of 2022, Trident Winds Inc. announced that it submitted a request to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management to develop and construct the first floating offshore wind farm off the coast of Washington state. Dubbed the Olympic Wind project, the Seattle-based offshore wind developer submitted an Unsolicited Lease Request for a commercial lease, which includes permitting, development, construction, operation and maintenance.

According to the release, the project site was planned to sit 43 miles off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula and deliver approximately 2,000 megawatts of carbon-free energy to approximately 800,000 homes. Additionally, Trident reported that the project was expected to generate jobs and economic benefits for local communities while helping Washington meet its ambitious climate goals and clean energy targets.

“The Olympic Wind project is poised to be the first floating, commercial scale offshore wind installation off the coast of Washington State,” said Trident Winds CEO, Alla Weinstein. “The project will harness our unlimited, carbon-free offshore wind resources for the benefit of all Washingtonians.

“We believe strongly that all voices matter and look forward to working with stakeholders to form strong partnerships that maximize benefits for surrounding communities.”

According to reports, if approved, the wind farm could be in operation as early as 2030. Olympic Wind would be situated in water depths of 500-1,300 meters (1,640-4,265 feet), with wind speeds in the area reportedly running around eight meters per second.

However, working this location can create some constraints, due to the location near Department of Defense operation zones, historical fishery grounds and shipping lanes. Additionally, the state has ambitious energy targets to meet net zero emissions by 2050, with the passing of the Climate Commitment Act beginning in 2023.

“We need to work within a somewhat limited area between the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary, DoD warning areas, vibrant fishing areas and shipping activity—so taking this all into consideration to find where the maritime conflicts might be is the challenge. Space is limited in determining what you can generate,” said Weinstein.

   

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Control; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection; Green Infrastructure; Latin America; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Technology; U.S. Department of Energy; Wind Farm; Wind Towers

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.