As the wind power industry looks to super-sized turbines, disruptors are betting on radical designs


Wind Catching Systems is looking to develop a floating, multi-turbine system. This illustration shows what it might look like once applied.

wind catching system

With their considerable height and broad blades, wind turbines are perhaps the most striking sign of the world’s shift to a more sustainable future.

Over the years, major players in this field have developed major new turbines, With the era of “super-size” Onshore and offshore structures appear to be just around the corner.

while these great pieces of kit are based on a familiar design Consisting of a tower, nacelle and blades, some companies are working on new ideas that, if built, would look very different from what they really are.

Wind catching system is one of them. Established in 2017 and headquartered outside the Norwegian capital of Oslo, it focuses on the development of “floating wind power plants based on a multi-turbine design”.

The overarching idea behind the Windcatcher system, as it is known, relates to maximizing “power output from a concentrated area”. The design also includes an elevator-based system for setting up the turbines and maintenance.

The depiction of what the Windcatcher would look like certainly looks like a massive, water-based wall of striking blades.

Its potential scale is immense. CEO Ole Hegheim said the “large model” would have a height of 300 meters (about 984 feet) and a width of 350 metres.

However, such a repetition is far from over. While the larger version of Windcatcher will use 126 turbines of 1 MW each, Heghem said a planned pilot model will have “between seven and 12”, with the exact number to be decided in the next few months.

The plan is for a gradual scale-up. After the pilot, Hegheim said his firm would “build an intermediate size, probably around 40 MW, before going for larger sizes.”

floating tech

Floating offshore wind turbines are different from fixed-bottom offshore wind turbines, which are attached to the seabed.

One advantage of floating turbines is that they can be installed in much deeper water than fixed-bottom ones, and in recent years have led to major economies of scale. like america Targets have been set to ramp up floating wind installations.

Companies like Wind Catching Systems are starting to attract some notable supporters as countries and companies around the world try to reduce their emissions and achieve net-zero goals.

In June 2022, the company said it entered into a strategic alliance with the automotive giant General Motors And also secured investment from GM Ventures.

The agreement with GM, Wind Catching Systems, pertains to “a collaboration covering technology development, project execution, offshore wind policy, and the advancement of sustainable technology applications.”

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More recently, in February 2023, the company announced that it would have a pre project grant 9.3 million Norwegian krone (about $872,500) from Anova, which is owned by Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment.

Wind Catching Systems said the grant “will support the initial implementation of the full-scale Windcatcher.”

“Through the pre-project, Wind Catching Systems will mature and validate technology and cost estimates for a full-scale windcatcher,” it added.

bird anxiety

Over the years, the interaction between wind turbines and the natural world has generated a great deal of discussion and debate, sometimes presenting Obstruction in projects.

The impact on birds is a particular concern, with the UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds warning that wind farms “harm birds through disturbance, displacement, acting as barriers, habitat loss and collisions”. can deliver.”

It added that “impacts can arise from a single development and cumulatively from multiple projects.”

During his interview with CNBC, Heggheim attempted to highlight how his company’s design could mitigate any risk.

“Behind the turbine we have a large structure [and] We hope it will be a sight for birds,” he said, explaining that there was also an opportunity to incorporate detection and deterrence systems on the structure.

“We hope you can create something more benign for bird life, if you will,” he said.

crowded field

Designs such as the Windcatcher offer a glimpse of how wind power might develop, and a variety of ideas have been proposed over the years.

it is included Vortex Bladeless’ Systemwhich has a cylindrical mast and does not use blades, and Kitemill, which developed a design centered on a kite-like system tied to the ground. Elsewhere, prefer business sea ​​twirl Working on vertical-axis floating turbine.

There is excitement about the potential of such proposals, but it looks like there is a long road ahead to challenge the dominance of today’s onshore and offshore turbines.

“The role of new turbine models and innovation in turbine design should not be overlooked,” Christoph Zipf, press manager for industry body WindEurope, told CNBC via email.

“It’s great that the wind industry continues to seek new avenues and innovative solutions,” Zipf said. “But as things stand today the “conventional” wind turbine, the three-blade, horizontal axis turbine will continue to lead the way.”

Such turbines are dominating all “competing projects” in offshore, floating and onshore wind, he said. “They offer the greatest power output at the lowest cost.”

Disrupting the wind power industry is a mammoth task that will require significant investment, time and patience.

Like other ocean-based technologies, floating offshore wind faces a number of challenges, not the least of which is the incredibly harsh environment turbines need to operate in.

Wind Catching Systems’ Heggheim, however, was optimistic about the future. “We definitely want to be mainstream,” he said.

Whether the company’s plans bear fruit remains to be seen, but its journey over the next few months and years will be interesting to watch.

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