We already know that people use wind turbines to harness the power of the wind on land. After all, this is becoming a fully-fledged industry as we speak. But what about offshore wind turbines? Many of you might not be as familiar with this technology as with the traditional wind turbines that you see while you’re driving on the highway. What you maybe already know is that offshore, the wind blows much stronger. So it comes as no surprise that countries have thought about how to best harness the power of the wind offshore, and not let it go to waste. Today, we are going to explore how the offshore wind energy works, and why we should use it more.
Offshore Wind Energy – How Does It Work?
The offshore wind industry works by constructing wind farms on the sea. Especially on the portion of shallow water in between a continent and the deep sea. The goal is to harvest the energy of the wind and produce electricity, as with traditional wind turbines. The only difference is that at sea, the winds are much stronger than on land. Which means the amount of energy coming from offshore turbines will be larger. That sounds like great news, right? And it is, but the price of building and installing such offshore turbines is also higher than in the case of land wind turbines. So what most countries who want to benefit from offshore wind energy have to do, is try to make sure the amount of energy they produce is higher than the costs they have to cover.
You can build offshore wind turbines both on shallow land and in the deep sea. However, people usually prefer the former. That is because you can build them straight on the sea floor. Those located far away in the sea normally require special mounting installations.
And if you were wondering how the energy from these offshore wind turbines reaches the land, the answer is through cables that are buried under the sea floor. These cables are connected to a platform that can be located both offshore or on land. Once the energy reaches the platform, it is sent to the electrical grid.
Why Do We Need Offshore Wind Energy?
The first important benefit of offshore wind energy is that it would help coastal cities with their electricity demand. And it will do so while preserving the environment as well. Usually, in areas where the demand for electricity is high, there is a lot of pollution. We pollute the environment when we burn fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases. But with the use of offshore wind energy, there is no need to worry about that anymore.
Another great thing about offshore wind turbines is that they can be quite big. Regardless of size, we can easily transport them at sea. That means that, unlike land turbines, they will capture more kinetic energy from the wind. That energy is transferred by the blades to an electric generator that is run by a spinning rotor shaft.
Also, the turbines’ towers don’t have to be really tall compared to their blades. In the sea, there is no vegetation or topography that might create variations in the wind’s velocity or any kind of turbulence.
In terms of environmental impact, offshore wind energy seems to be better than wind energy on land. That is because the noise produced by the turbines and the mere sight of them is not an issue when you place them somewhere far in the sea. Moreover, the foundation of these turbines can become artificial reefs, which would be great news for the fish population. More food supplies would mean an increase in the number of fish in the sea.
And if you think the noise coming from offshore wind turbines might disturb the underwater population, you shouldn’t worry about that. Since we already travel the sea by ships, boats, and so on, the turbines won’t pose an issue for the sea life.
Furthermore, you can be sure that the resources are endless, since the wind will always blow quite furiously at sea. And even if the investment is larger than in the case of wind energy harnessed on land, out of other renewable energy sources, this one seems to actually be the most cost-effective overall. Why? Because it creates much more energy, as we’ve already explained.
Another interesting thing that you maybe didn’t anticipate about offshore wind energy is that people tend to regard it better than wind energy captured on land. That is simply because they don’t see any apparatus that disrupts their life in any way. This kind of attitude, also called NIMBY, or not in my back yard, is quite spread all over the world. While people understand the benefits of wind turbines, they would prefer not to see them working their magic. So if you install more wind turbines on sea, people will be free to do whatever they want with their land. They won’t have to fear that a turbine might interfere with their activities.
Related to the same issue, researchers working on how to develop the technology behind wind turbines will have no problem trying out new things. After all, they won’t directly affect anyone’s life.
If you thought that was the last benefit of offshore wind energy, we are here to provide you with another great one. Is it believed that hurricanes and storms might be tempered by wind turbines on the sea before they reach land. This would lead to less damage to the human population. Of course, that means that offshore wind turbines have to be much sturdier than the typical land turbine.
Offshore Wind Energy All Around the World
People have been using wind energy in Europe since 1991, but they are also currently developing it in the United States. In Europe, nine countries have produced around 2,000 megawatts solely from offshore wind turbines until 2010. What’s even more impressive is that there are many other projects that plan to triple this number. China and Japan are also starting to warm up to the idea of offshore wind energy. Their first projects have taken off, and they have scheduled more for the future.
In the case of the United States, there are many ambitious projects that show promising results. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, offshore wind turbines could produce three times as much electricity as the country is currently capable of.
Is Offshore Wind Energy the Future?
Since offshore wind turbines are a great way to produce clean energy and also make sure that the apparatus itself does not disturb the human population in any way, the answer might be yes, offshore wind energy can be the future of our planet. However, we have to make sure we know how to turn that plan into reality. The biggest concern when it comes to offshore wind energy is how much it costs. So researchers are intently focusing on ways to reduce these costs.
For instance, we have to take into account the wind resources of each area. Then, we have to compare them to the design of the wind turbines, so as to reach the perfect balance. We have to reduce the weight of the materials used to construct the wind turbines to an optimal level, as beneficial as they normally are to resist storms. At the same time, we should better optimize the turbines. This is to make sure that they are able to handle even the worst of hurricanes.
The maintenance costs are another concern. After all, reaching the offshore turbines is not as easy as with those we find on land. That means that specialists have to find another way to make sure they run smoothly, and only conduct periodic maintenance checkups. But once we deal with these issues, and we develop more ambitious projects around the world, we might start to think of offshore wind energy as the future of electricity.
Summing It All Up
Wind energy is one of the greatest renewable energy sources that people can harness to create electricity. Traditional wind turbines that we find on land are already a common occurrence. Now, offshore wind energy turbines are gaining more and more ground. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since there are a lot of benefits we can associate with them. We believe we’ve managed to show that in the above guide.
While there are still plenty of things to work on, and many countries have yet to test out this new type of renewable energy, the progress that we have made shows how the pros outweigh the cons. And so does the fact that many projects focused on harnessing wind power offshore are pending approval as we speak. So overall, offshore wind energy stands as proof that we can protect our planet from the damaging effects of traditional energy sources.