Offshore Wind Farms Are Really Booming

Image by diego_torres CC0

Image by diego_torres CC0

Guest post by Sam Brown*

In terms of renewable energy sources, there are a number of options. While solar, biomass, and geothermal technologies are all viable approaches to cleaner energy provision, wind is leading the way in innovation and investment, thanks to new offshore wind farms.

While the investment in renewable energy sources has been declining, particularly due to budget cuts in recent years, wind power is bucking this trend. In 2016, investment in new offshore wind farms grew by a staggering 40%.

This huge investment is made all the more impressive within the current political environment, with the ongoing scepticism and debate around climate change. So why are offshore wind farms booming right now?

The advantages of wind power

Wind farms are an attractive proposition to investors for a number of key reasons. The major plus point for wind, of course, lies in its green credentials as an energy source. Harvesting wind is a clean and effective way of energy generation, making good use of a natural resource that is limitless.

In addition to this headline benefit, wind power has relatively low economic and maintenance costs, and offshore wind farms in particular, are unobtrusive. We have always known about these benefits, however, so why are we seeing a sudden rise in offshore wind farm investment?

As well as the clear positives associated with wind power, there have always been a handful of technological negatives, which have hindered the effectiveness of wind farms in the past. Due to the technology not quite being at a high enough level, setting up offshore wind farms has always been expensive, which inflates the cost of this particular energy source.

In addition to this, traditional fixed turbines can only be installed at a depth of up to 40 metres – meaning they are simply not suitable for many environments. Thanks to advancements in technology, however, this issue is being resolved.

Technological developments

Thanks to amazing new technology, the previous limitations of offshore wind farms are no longer applicable.

Innovative floating turbines use an underwater ballast along with mooring lines to stay upright, meaning wind farms can now be established further from the shore and in deeper water.

While fixed turbines have a limit of 40 metres, these new floating turbines can be deployed at depths of anywhere between 100 to 700 metres.

Alongside this development, manufacturers have also been able to make larger turbines, increasing the amount of energy able to be generated thanks to a higher capacity. The first of these new floating wind farms was successfully set up off the Scottish coastline earlier this year, providing energy for over 20,000 homes.

 

The success of this initial floating wind farm opens up numerous potential locations that were previously accessible for this type of energy.

New locations, new benefits

With a range of new locations opening up thanks to this technology, wind power suddenly has a host of new benefits to boot.

In addition to greater amounts of energy able to be produced, increased accessibility and availability are major plus points for new offshore wind farms. Placing the turbines offshore also helps to reduce any aesthetic impact of wind farms too.

While the costs of these floating wind farms are high at present due to the infancy of the technology, these are set to fall over time. Thanks to this innovation, alongside increased investment, offshore wind farms are really booming.

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

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