In the future wind turbines could float at sea, if a University of Auckland phD student’s research proves positive.
Glenfield’s Hazim Namik, a mechanical engineering doctoral student, has been sponsored $75,000 by the Government to look into the viability of offshore turbines.
None exist in the world so far, and one of the main obstacles is that the rocking motions in the ocean hinder power production.
Mr Namik aims to develop an onboard control system to steady the turbines and overcome this problem.
“Offshore turbines experience stronger and steadier winds,” says Mr Namik.
“It is a clean, renewable and sustainable source of energy.”
Mr Namik says wind turbine development has been prevented in New Zealand because of complaints from residents about the noise and visual impact.
“The further they can be placed offshore, the better the winds and the less visual and noise impact they have on communities.”
It is anticipated that the first floating turbine prototypes will be built by 2009.
Offshore turbines attached to the sea floor have been constructed in depths of up to 44 metres.
“For water deeper than 60 metres, the most feasible option is a floating wind turbine. After this point it becomes uneconomical to fix them to the sea floor.”
Wind is the most rapidly growing renewable energy source in the world.
Mr Namik says fixed or floating ocean-based wind turbines are an optimal way of ensuring New Zealand’s future energy supply.
But he adds that energy suppliers and companies would have to be agreeable to large projects due to the size and cost of ocean turbines.
By 2025 the Government intends to get 90 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources.
Mr Namik received one of only 42 Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarships, awarded by the Tertiary Education Commission to New Zealand’s smartest scholars undertaking doctoral research.
It is paid over three years.
By Lucy Vickers
11 April 2008