Offshore Wind Farms
With the push for renewable energy sources, wind farms, both onshore and offshore, have been making major progress in development all around the world. The UK, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Ireland have all had effective renewable, clean energy production through offshore wind turbines. Offshore wind farms have not had the fast start as onshore ones but with the development of new technology and investments in supporting systems, the numbers of offshore wind farms have increased and will continue to do so. Offshore wind farms have their drawbacks and positives compared to onshore farms and these factors will be established here.
Why Go Offshore?
There are several reasons to go offshore for wind farms and most of the important ones are based on one factor and that is location, location, location. There is a vast amount of coastline all around the world where wind farms can be placed. Offshore wind farms work best on areas with shallow water and for island countries like Ireland and Japan it becomes a great opportunity. This larger amount of space provides large wind farms with numerous wind turbines that are out of sight and out of mind. The location outside of the view of people fixes the problems that are prevalent with onshore wind farms which include towering eyesores, noisy, and possible health issues.
Another reason to go offshore is the quality of wind over the ocean which has not hills, mountains, and buildings hindering the natural wind. This leads to better quality wind that has higher average speeds and less turbulence which has an end result of better efficiency in energy production compared to wind onshore. The location also allows easier transportation of large parts for wind turbines that normally require special permits to travel through cities on roads but are transported by boats instead.
Hindrances for Offshore Wind Farms
Just as location is the main factor for many of the positive arguments to build offshore wind farms, it is also a major deterrent as well. The location of offshore wind farms is very important to the cost of the entire setup and continuing maintenance as well. The cost of offshore wind farms increases dramatically the further from shore and deeper the water. The initial cost of offshore projects is much more than onshore ones because it requires more capital and work to install the wind turbines in the ocean and also to install necessary underwater power lines to connect to coastal power grids. The wind turbines have to be of high quality to stand against tough ocean storms and the foundation has to be solid. Offshore wind farms face many of the same issues as onshore ones when it comes to connecting to power grids which is not necessarily and issue with the wind power but just the need to change an outdated grid system that needs to support future energy production.
There are some other concerns about offshore wind farms that are usually researched well before the project has even started. These include the affect of the turbine on wildlife and the environment. Like onshore wind turbines, offshore ones call kill birds, especially if the wind farms are located in the birds’ flight path for migration or other purpose. Offshore wind turbines also have to worry about affecting other marine life like fish, seals, clams and other marine wildlife. Wind turbines can cause changes to the ecosystem and extensive research needs to be done before these projects are approved in numbers. The other issue is the oil used to lubricate the massive wind turbines which could leak and pollute the ocean and further damage the environment and wildlife. Companies in charge of offshore wind farms must have a plan to take care of any problem that may arise but the chance of such an event is still present and the effect would be disastrous.
The Future of Offshore Wind Power
With the need for alternative, green energy and the fight over onshore wind farms, offshore ones will certainly be considered more often as a choice, especially in areas with limited land space. Technology is still way behind in the production, collection, and distribution of alternative energy like wind power. Before offshore wind farms become major providers to the energy needs all over the world, technology needs to improve on the foundation of the wind turbines in the ocean including floating docks that Japan has decided to establish. Improvements also need to be made to the wind turbines to increase potential energy output and decrease risk and maintenance. The last major technology need is a change to the grid to allow smoother transition and improved distribution to sections that need energy at certain times. With these upgrades in technology, offshore wind farms can become significant energy sources for many coastal areas.