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First offshore wind turbine to be buoyed off Norway

StatoilHydro, using experience from oil and gas exploration, will test a turbine in $80 million pilot.

Wind power's best days may be out at sea.

Energy company StatoilHydro on Thursday announced Hywind, a project to test a large-scale offshore wind turbine.

Click on the image to see a 3-meter-high prototype. StatoilHydro

The 2.3-megawatt turbine, a Siemens machine that is 65 meters high, will sit atop a buoy tied down by three anchors.

The system can work in depths ranging from 120 meters to 700 meters, according to StatoilHydro. It will be tested, starting in 2009, off the coast of Norway.

Building offshore wind turbines is an idea that has been advocated for some time. One advantage is that they are, in theory, out of sight, allaying NIMBY (not in my backyard) sentiment.

But there are a number of technical challenges and the cost burden of building electricity transmission lines back to where it can be used.

So there is still a lot of research and development required before offshore turbines are deployed for commercial power generation.

"The wind turbines must work satisfactorily even when subjected to movements, and it must also be possible to carry out necessary maintenance to the highest of safety standards," said Alexandra Bech Gjørv, the head of new energy at StatoilHydro, in a statement.