Wind is the fastest growing renewable energy source, increasing at an annual rate of 25% with a worldwide installed capacity of 74 GW in 2007. The vast majority of wind power is generated from onshore wind farms. Their growth is however limited by the lack of inexpensive land near major population centers and the visual pollution caused by large wind turbines. Wind energy generated from offshore wind farms is the next frontier. Large sea areas with stronger and steadier winds are available for wind farm development and 5MW wind turbine towers located 20 miles from the coastline are invisible. Current offshore wind turbines are supported by monopoles driven into the seafloor at coastal sites a few miles from shore and in water depths of 10–15m. The primary impediment to their growth is visual pollution and the prohibitive cost of seafloor mounted monopoles in larger water depths. This paper presents a fully coupled dynamic analysis of floating wind turbines that enables a parametric design study of floating wind turbine concepts and mooring systems. Pareto optimal designs are presented that possess a favorable combination of nacelle acceleration, mooring system tension and displacement of the floating structure supporting a five megawatt wind turbine. All concepts are selected so that they float stably while in tow to the offshore wind farm site and prior to their connection to the mooring system. A fully coupled dynamic analysis is carried out of the wind turbine, floater and mooring system in wind and a sea state based on standard computer programs used by the offshore and wind industries. The results of the parametric study are designs that show Pareto fronts for mean square acceleration of the turbine versus key cost drivers for the offshore structure that include the weight of the floating structure and the static plus dynamic mooring line tension. Pareto optimal structures are generally either a narrow deep drafted spar, or a shallow drafted barge ballasted with concrete. The mooring systems include both tension leg and catenary mooring systems. In some of the designs, the RMS acceleration of the wind turbine nacelle can be as low as 0.03 g in a sea state with a significant wave height of ten meters and water depths of up to 200 meters. These structures meet design requirements while possessing a favorable combination of nacelle accleration, total mooring system tension and weight of the floating structure. Their economic assessment is also discussed drawing upon a recent financial analysis of a proposed offshore wind farm.

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