Naval Architect: Technology for off-shore wind Turbines isn't far off

Date: August 20, 2013

Story originally published on on August 15, 2013.
By: Stephen Kloosterman

naval arch

Glosten Associates naval architect and marine engineer Charles Nordstrom spoke to a crowd
of about 45 in Muskegon on Thursday, Aug. 15. Image originally published on

A field of wind turbines floating on Lake Michigan isn’t that far off, a naval architect and engineer told a crowd of about 45 people in Muskegon Thursday, Aug. 15.

Or, at least, the technology is nearly ready, said Glosten Associates naval architect and marine engineer Charles Nordstrom. There’s still no state mechanism to regulate such a project.

“There is not a framework for proceeding with a project,” Nordstrom said. “We’d love to.”

Glosten in 2012 had a partnership with Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center and Michigan Technological University for a federal grant to test its floating wind turbine technology on the Great Lakes, but the U.S. Department of Energy did not fund the grant.

Glosten is now completing engineering work on a demonstration project to put floating wind turbines using its PelaStar technology off the southeast coast of England. PelaStar works using tension-weight platforms, buoy-like hollow steel bases, anchored to the sea floor by cables.

PelaStar would work best where the lake is more than 160 feet deep, Nordstrom said. That contrasts to turbines with solid-construction foundations in the sea bottom, which become unfeasible before 160 feet of depth.

The depth of the water needed for PelaStar could place the floating turbines far enough out into the Great Lakes as to be nearly invisible from shore, Nordstrom said.

He pointed to maps that show strong wind conditions off the thumb of the Michigan mitten and off the coast of Southeast Michigan. The deep water in those areas starts 12 miles from shore.

“Pretty much can’t see these machines from the shoreline at 15 miles from shore,” he said, adding that the wind is also stronger. “It’s cheaper and deeper.”

The past debate over a proposal for the Scandia Offshore Wind project in Lake Michigan off the West Michigan coastline was a major controversy and ended with opposition to being able to see the turbines from shore. With deep-water deployment, wind turbines could be put on Lake Michigan without any detection from shoreline properties or public beaches, MAREC Director Arn Boezaart has said.

“(Land-based wind energy) is here to stay, the horses are out,” Boezaart said on Thursday. “But I think we’re at the point where offshore wind is a reality.”

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