Evolution Of Offshore Wind Energy

Over the past decade, countries in Europe and Asia have been rapidly developing offshore wind projects. The reason for the move to offshore wind includes:
• Winds offshore are stronger and more consistent than winds onshore. Wind speed is very important in electrical power generation. A wind turbine can generate 50% more electricity from a 16 mile per hour wind than a 14 mile per hour wind.
• Offshore wind farms can become a major source of electrical power, replacing fossil fuel (coal, oil and natural) power plants. There is earnest concern about the impact of greenhouse gases on our environment and our climate by the majority of the scientific community.
• The cost for electricity generated from offshore wind farms has dropped in the United Kingdom from US 16.4 cents per kWh to US 8.1 cents per kWh. The cost to generate electricity from offshore wind is now cheaper than coal and nuclear power. The Norwegian energy company, Statoil believes that electricity from offshore wind can be produced at US 3.0 cents per kWh.
• Offshore wind farms do not harm commercial fishing. In many regions, the platforms for the wind turbines create a mini-reef, which has enhanced the marine ecosystems.
The rapid development in offshore wind projects has driven an evolution in wind energy technology. Everything in about the wind energy business is getting bigger. As an example, wind turbines with 4.1 MW capacity are being replaced by wind turbines with 11 MW capacity. The elevation above sea level to the wind turbine hub (hub height) on the current wind turbines is 295 feet compared to 410 feet for the new wind turbines.
The larger, high capacity wind turbines have created logistical challenges transporting blades and towers by railroad or road. Wind turbine manufacturers are shifting their production facilities closer to major sea ports to avoid the logistical transportation challenges by road and rail.

New marine vessels are also being developed to transport and install the new, mammoth offshore wind turbines. The new vessels have specially developed bows and extendable ramps controlled by hydraulic systems. The new vessels can now carry up to twelve wind turbine rotor blades. The new vessels can install the new, mammoth offshore wind turbines more efficiently, significantly reducing installation cost.
In my opinion, offshore wind turbines will continue to increase in wind capacity over the next decade. Increasing wind turbine capacity will also result in continued reductions in the price of electricity. Currently, natural gas is the cheapest fuel to generate electricity at US 4.0 cents per kWh. Offshore wind will ultimately provide the lowest cost for electricity at US 3.0 cents per kWh if Statoil’s forecast is correct.

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