Windmills will soon be standing tall in Lake Erie thanks to an innovative combination of offshore oil-rig technology and geotechnical drilling. The row of six windmills that make up this latest Great Lakes wind farm will be located northwest of Cleveland, a few miles offshore from downtown. The windmills are expected to generate enough power for 6,000 homes.

If you've imagined windmills on your lake or large pond, you should know that having these is becoming safer and easier thanks to cross-industry collaboration. Here's what you need to know about windmills and water.

Ohio is reaping the wind from the water

There are wind farms popping up all over Ohio. The existence of significant winds off the Great Lakes and numerous aging local power-generating stations make it a no-brainer to use the lake-effect gales to replace failing electricity-generating systems. Many coastal areas and wetlands see sufficient winds to easily generate power from windmills, so alternative-energy advocates are seeking offshore solutions.

Some people living along the Great Lakes and other coastal areas hesitate to go offshore with windmills, fearing the disruption of debris underwater and the resulting harm to lake life. The new Cleveland offshore project, named "Project Icebreaker," is unique. Turbines will be mounted on a new kind of pole that won't stir up sediment.

The mono-bucket versus the steel pole

In the past, the only way to erect an offshore or underwater wind tower was to do a lot of excavating in the lake bed. This disruptive method stirs up silt and harms lake creatures. Steel poles, or pilings, must be driven down into the bedrock, adding more sediment and pollution to the mix. The process takes weeks to complete.

With a mono-bucket, the windmill mount has a bucket at its base that is tipped into the lake so it fills with water as it's submerged. Once the bucket is safely on the lake bottom, the water is vacuumed out, and the pole rights itself. Suction keeps the entire thing upright in the lake bottom.

Danish oil-industry researchers developed the first mono buckets, but the technology is opening up other offshore applications—including wind farms—that were once thought to be too risky and expensive.

Geotechnical drillers

Before the buckets can be deployed in place, geotechnical drillers must make test holes along the stretch of lake bed where the buckets will be placed. The goal is to determine what sort of foundation the lake bed offers and whether or not it's prone to weakness or other structural issues. Samples are being taken in a straight line along the supporting lake bottom.

The geotechnical teams check for sediment below the bottom of the lake and then go deeper into the shale below to test the makeup of the soil and rock layers. They take core samples, which are brought up to the surface and analyzed to make sure the lake bottom is up to the task of supporting the windmills.

Emerging technologies are enabling more alternative energy solutions. If you plan to install windmills on land or in water, research the innovative ways you can install them today. Be sure to have your own property core drilled before installing any type of heavy, tall structure. By taking soil samples before you dig or drive, you can end up with structures that offer energy savings and safe installation.

Visit sites such as http://haztechdrilling.net/ to learn more about geotechnical drilling. 

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