Norwegian start-up reveals plan to revolutionise offshore wind generation

Norwegian start-up Wind Catching Systems (WCS) has revealed its design for a floating "wind sail" – a 324m-by-300m structure containing 117 turbines that the company says can generate as much power as five conventional spinners at a lower cost.

The company was founded in 2017 to challenge the idea that turbines based on the Dutch windmill were really the optimal design for offshore generation. The three founders decided that an array of a hundred or so smaller turbines on a floating platform would optimise installation, maintenance and generation, and cut costs to the point where subsidies would not be needed.

Generation is improved by increasing the amount of wind that a single unit can intercept – equivalent to five conventional turbines, according to WCS. This would be enough to run 80,000 standard European homes.

Installation is made easier by avoiding the need to use specialised vessels to attach a unit to the sea bed; maintenance is improved because engineers can work with lots of small parts that are easier to access and tinker with, rather than monolithic structures.

In April, two Norwegian investment companies, North Energy and Ferd Capital, each bought a 31% stake in WCS for $1.2m. This will allow WCS to move from design to deployment, possibly as early as next year.

Ole Heggheim, WCS’ chief executive, said: "Wind Catching will make floating offshore wind competitive as soon as in 2022-2023, which is at least 10 years earlier than conventional floating offshore wind farms.

"In cooperation with our main contractor Aibel, we will commercialise this groundbreaking technology that dramatically increases the efficiency of floating wind farms and cuts acreage use by 80%. Simply put, we will deliver floating offshore wind at the costs of bottom-fixed technology solutions, which provides great opportunities on a global basis for the Norwegian supplier industry."

The company is now preparing wind tunnel tests, to be performed in Milan during the summer. It comments that this will validate the technology and, if all goes to plan, will contribute to "unlocking the significant commercial potential of Wind Catching Systems".

Image: WCS’ rendering of five windcatchers in operation

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