These Farms May Harvest Wind On The Ocean

Windmills, promoted for decades as an environmentally benign energy alternative--and now becoming cost-competitive--are under attack by environmentalists. In Britain, the sight of windmills in the much-venerated countryside has triggered opposition that has blocked the building of several windmill "farms."

In response, Tecnomare and British Maritime Technology have designed an out-of-sight windmill--one that floats on the sea. The 45-meter-tall device has the same 30-meter blade conventional land mills have, and a farm of nine windmills could supply a small town's electricity. Unfortunately, power would cost up to two times more per kilowatt than power from a land-based farm--reflecting the cost of linking the windmills to shore. So Britain's Trade & Industry Dept., which put up half of the $1.125 million to design the windmills, won't fund construction. Now, the two companies are looking to the European Union and to private industry for $45 million to finance the first floating farm.