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Shifting the Weight

These massive three-pronged steel legs are necessary to anchor each turbine in a North Sea wind park -- a requirement that makes some offshore construction prohibitively expensive.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Offshore wind farms offer huge potential in wind power, but potential drawbacks make their future uncertain. One of the greatest concerns is financial, especially regarding the cost of anchoring a wind turbine to the ocean floor. That price of that construction is so high as to raise doubts as to the viability of large-scale offshore power generation.

Many companies are looking for ways to decrease that cost. One of them, Technip, went at it from a center-of-gravity angle, turning the traditional turbine structure on its side. The effect is a structure that's more stable: The Vertiwind design moves the generator, the heaviest component, closer to the ocean's surface -- 65 feet (20 meters) above the sea, rather than the usual 200 feet (60 meters); it also makes the axis of rotation vertical [source: Gatto]. The combined result is a lower center of gravity that reduces the depth and complexity of anchoring requirements [source: Snieckus]. Ideally, Vertiwind turbines will not need to be fixed to the ocean floor at all.

As of January 2013, a 35 kilowatt Vertiwind prototype is ready for testing off the coast of France [source: Wind Power Intelligence].

That's not, apparently, the only way to go about it, though. One final wind-power innovation proposes another solution to high offshore costs.

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