The concept of global warming was first brought to light in the 1800s. At the time, some found the research daunting while others believed it to be a welcoming sign, with Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius writing, “By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid [CO2] in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the earth.”
Regardless, it would take decades for this concept to catch on throughout the scientific community and even longer before its mainstream adoption. It wasn't until the 1950s when more data on carbon dioxide emissions arose that confirmed the hypothesis. Since then, scientists have gathered a mountain of more data that not only validates the theory even further but alludes to the severity and predicted future outcomes as a result of global warming.
Today, the concept is widely known and has created a push for accountability, with activists around the globe scrambling to enact change through regulations, technological advancements, and personal choices. Most notably, via the implementation of alternative energy options, consumer pressure has led to some development in the industry.
Within alternative energy, wind turbines are one of the more well-researched and adopted forms in the United States, accounting for nearly 9% of total utility-scale generation. Due to their efficiency and relatively low environmental impact, this form of energy has inspired businesses throughout the globe to begin streamlining the technology and manufacturing their versions.
One Norwegian company has taken it one step further to reinvent what we already know about wind energy and design a truly unique alternative.
Wind Catching Systems
Wind Catching Systems was founded in Norway in 2017 by Asbjørn Nes, Arthur Kordt, and Ole Heggheim. The three set out with a goal to improve offshore wind energy via taking the knowledge that is currently known and advancing it to mitigate any discrepancies. This ambition, in addition to inspiration from a former colleague, Kai Levander, led the three to begin experimentation into multi-turbines.
Flash forward to 2021, and their goals have become a reality. In early September, the company announced its plans to build an offshore multi-turbine called the Wind Catcher. The advanced prototype is expected to stand at 1,000-ft tall and have approximately 100 small blades attached to its grid-like design.
The Wind Catcher is anticipated to have its first official model built by next year. When put into use, the multi-turbine will garner enough energy to power roughly 80,000-100,000 homes annually; 5x the amount of the world's largest single-turbine.
What sets the Wind Catcher apart from traditional offshore wind turbines, besides its gigantic size, is its ability to float on water, which can be incredibly beneficial due to many offshore wind turbines needing to be anchored to the seabed. Not only does the anchoring cause damage to the local ecosystem, but it similarly restricts installation to remain within 20-miles of the coastline. The ability to float, coupled with the Wind Catcher's tall size, means that it can harvest even more energy than its counterpart, single turbines.
The unique design is also expected to have much shorter blades of 50-ft long compared to the average 120-ft long. Heggheim explains that smaller turbines can generate even more energy and make the entire system lighter and easier to manufacture and maintain.
The company's CFO, Ronny Karlsen, states that “If you have one single turbine and you need to change the blade, you have to stop the whole operation. We have 126 individual turbines, so if we need to change the blade, we can stop one turbine.”
The smaller blades are also made of aluminum rather than fiberglass, meaning that they can be easily melted down and recycled at their end-of-life.
Heggheim goes on to state that the company has considered birds when designing its blueprints. Explaining that the multi-turbines will have bird radars installed onto the machine that will send out singles to incoming birds that will deter them from coming closer. “These units will be so far offshore,” he says, “so birdlife along the coast should not be endangered.”
Powering The Globe Through Wind
The concept of wind turbines is rather simple: wind turns a rotor which spins a generator and creates energy. The generated energy can either be sent directly to a grid or a battery for storage. Though incredibly beneficial, wind turbines have drawn a fair share of criticism throughout the years due to a few discrepancies, particularly surrounding the safety of birds.
Despite some birds become flying into wind turbines, when compared to the negative effects that fossil fuels and a changing climate have on wildlife as a whole, the collateral damage of wind turbines is far less. In addition, technological advancements, such as the aforementioned radar, can help to lower the number of birds harmed even more.
Another criticism of this type of energy falls within the ability to generate power on a continuous scale due to naturally occurring wind patterns. However, this can be mitigated, to an extent, with other forms of alternative energy or utilizing a battery for stored energy, it is a factor that many researchers are trying to overcome.
Even with the downsides of this alternative energy, copious examinations have still found it to be a reliable energy source with far less environmental damage when compared to fossil fuels.
Though the Wind Catcher won't be able to improve upon each of these critiques, it will still be an impactful prototype that can significantly alter the current route of alternative energy. If successful, the design can be implemented throughout the globe and potentially bring power to rural areas that lack the proper infrastructure for traditional energy.
The success of this multi-turbine will undoubtedly encourage others in the field to follow along a similar path to compete with Wind Catching Systems. This can ultimately lead to a future with more global access to clean energy, more technological advancements, and more hope.