Engineer takes up challenge of floating wind turbines

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Hazim NamikWind turbines are criticised as an eyesore but praised for producing clean energy. But what if they could float at sea?

A University of Auckland engineering doctoral student has received a prestigious government scholarship to study the feasibility of floating wind turbines.

PhD student Hazim Namik, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, aims to develop an onboard control system to overcome the rocking motions a floating wind turbine experiences in the ocean, allowing it to maintain power production. This is considered a major hurdle to constructing floating turbines.

"Offshore turbines experience stronger and steadier winds. It is a clean, renewable and sustainable source of energy. And, the further they can be placed offshore, the better the winds and the less visual and noise impact they have on communities," Hazim says.

At present no floating wind turbines exist in the world, although the first commercial prototypes are expected to be built by 2009. Hazim hopes his findings will be valuable to this emerging industry.Turbine

Offshore turbines fixed to the sea floor have been constructed, but only in depths up to 44metres.

“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 energy is the fastest growing renewable energy source in the world, and most of the potential lies in offshore winds in deep water.

Hazim believes offshore wind turbines, whether fixed or floating, are an ideal means to secure New Zealand’s future energy supply. The New Zealand Government aims to generate 90 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

“However wind turbine progress has been hindered in New Zealand mainly by complaints from residents about noise and the visual impact on outstanding landscapes. Offshore wind farms can resolve all of these issues,” Hazim says.

“But the size and cost of offshore wind turbines is significant so energy suppliers and companies would need to be willing to invest in large scale projects.”

Hazim received one of only 42 Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarships, awarded by the Tertiary Education Commission to New Zealand’s brightest scholars conducting doctoral research. He will receive $75,000 over three years.

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