Last weekend, the world’s first floating wind turbine was launched to sea off the coast of Norway. Known as the Hywind, the 2.3 megawatt turbine is a test venture that could eventually lead to wind farms further off shore, where the winds are stronger and there are fewer disruptions to shipping and fisheries. Like an iceberg much of the turbine is hidden underwater, where it floats on top of a 100 meter base and is tethered to the sea floor by three cables up to 700 meters long. A floating wind farm using similar technology has been proposed off the coast of Maine, where the rising cost of heating oil could force an evacuation of the state if its residents become unable to pay for heat.

Although there’s no timeline for when the Hywind might become commercially available, it serves as one of the many examples of innovation occurring in the next generation of turbines, and underscores how much innovation has already occurred since the first modern wind turbines were built in the 1980s. Here are a couple of other designs that may (or may not) offer a glimpse into the future of turbine design.

Last month, turbine manufacturer REpower finished installing three 6MW turbines in Hamburg, Germany. These large turbines (each rotor blade is over 200 feet long) are set for eventual offshore deployment. To get a sense at just how large the turbine is, look for the workers standing in the holes where the rotor blades are about to be attached to the hub.

Meanwhile, as innovations in the next generation of wind technology continue, Vestas, the world’s largest turbine manufacturer is taking time to innovate education measures for the next generation of wind developers, turbine manufacturers, and Operations & Maintenance staff. Last July the company announced a contract with Lego to build a limited-edition Vestas wind turbine set. Standing over two feet tall after construction, the set runs on its own internal battery and does not generate any electricity of its own.

Over the next 20 years, the wind industry will continue to see innovation and evolution in turbine design. Rotor blades will grow larger and towers higher, transmission lines will increase capacity and the grid will become smarter, and materials and construction will decrease in cost as mass production of turbines swells. With technological advancements charging full steam ahead, the future appears bright for wind energy.

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