A US developer has won approval to install what could be the country’s first offshore wind turbine, a small 50 kW, four-blade prototype planned for Texas state waters. If a six-month test of the prototype goes well, it will be replaced with a 3MW turbine.
Coastal Point Energy told Windpower Offshore it had received a permit in mid-June from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to install the experimental turbine 9.5 miles off Galveston, in the Gulf of Mexico.
The in-house design calls for two sets of 100-foot blades – two blades upwind and two downwind – which the company says will make the machine 15-18% more efficient than a three-blade turbine.
Coastal Point Energy hopes to have the turbine installed by the end of the year, although this depends on securing finance.
The company plans to test both its double-rotating technology and to carry out an avian impacts study. The turbine tower will feature a laser system to detect birds and bats passing through the sweep area. Microphones embedded in the blades will record any strikes.
In addition, the turbine’s energy will be used to produce potable water, which the company will give away. The USACE permit prohibits Coastal Point from operating the turbine as a commercial venture.
Coastal Point will operate the turbine for about six months and then replace it with a 3MW machine. By 2015, it hopes to have installed a 150MW offshore wind farm in the gulf, which it estimates will cost $354m. It secured a 30-year site lease in 2005.
The company views the one-turbine installation as a model that could be replicated in the developing world to meet local power needs.
No other US offshore wind developers are currently projecting a 2012 completion date. Coastal Point’s closest competitor for the achievement of first US offshore wind turbine is likely Maine’s DeepCWind consortium, which plans to test a 20kW model next year. Fishermen’s Energy is targeting 2013-2014 for its 25MW Atlantic City project off New Jersey.