Norwegian energy group Norsk Hydro has signed a research pact with German engineering firm Siemens - which should see the world's first floating wind turbine produce electricity in the North Sea by 2009.
So far, sea-based turbines have had to rely on shallow sites where bases can be easily secured to the sea bed.
Norsk Hydro has extensive experience in dealing with floating installations, such as North Sea loading boys for oil tankers - and Siemens has undertaken many wind turbine construction projects, both on land and in shallow waters.
"It's attractive to have windmills out at sea, out of sight of land, away from birds' migration routes," said Alexandra Bech Gjoerv, head of Hydro's New Energy division at a signing ceremony to develop floating wind turbine technology
"We want to build the world's first offshore floating windmill," he added. "We want to produce a lot of energy, out of sight."
A prototype costing $34 million could be in place in the north sea by 2009, Hydro said.
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