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Windmills that would float hundreds of miles out at sea could
one day help satisfy our energy needs without being eyesores
from land, scientists said today.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and
the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have designed
a wind turbine that can be attached to a floating platform.
Long steel cables would tether the corners of the floating platform
to a concrete-block or other mooring system on the ocean floor,
like a high-tech ship anchor. The setup is called a "tension leg
platform," or TLP, and would be cheaper than fixed towers
The floating platforms to sway side to side but not bob up and down.
Computer simulations suggest that even during hurricanes, the
platforms would shift by only about three to six feet and that the
bottom of the turbine blades would revolve well above the peak
of even the highest wave.
Dampers similar to those used to steady skyscrapers during
high winds and earthquakes could be used to further reduce
sideways motion, the researchers say.
The researchers estimate their floater-mounted turbines could
work in water depths ranging from about 100 to 650 feet.
This means that in the northeastern United States, they could be
placed about 30 to 100 miles out at sea.
Because winds are stronger farther offshore, the floating windmills
could also generate more energy—5.0 megawatts (MW), compared
to 1.5 MW for onshore units and 3.5 MW for conventional offshore