Winds offshore are stronger and more consistent than winds onshore. A wind turbine can generate 50% more electrical power with wind speeds of 16 miles per hour than wind speeds of 14 miles per hour. Major offshore wind farms have the potential to be a major source of power, providing 2,000 MW to 3,000 MW per facility.
Europe began to develop offshore wind farms over fifteen years ago in the North Sea. Fishermen in the North Sea have seen offshore wind farms create protective areas for marine life, improving fishing. Exhaustive studies by marine biologist have proven that offshore wind farms aren’t a danger to marine life.
The only negative to offshore wind farms is the cost to generate the electricity. The platform to mount the individual wind turbine offshore is a major expense. In the United States, the levelized cost of energy for onshore wind farms is 4.5 ¢ per kWh, compared to 10.2 ¢ per kWh for coal and 14.8 ¢ per kWh for nuclear energy. In Europe, the levelized cost of energy for offshore wind 15.0 ¢ per kWh. The average cost of electricity in the United States is 12.5 ¢ per kWh.
HyStOH, a consortium of German companies has developed and tested a self-aligning, lightweight, semi-submersible floating-platform for offshore wind turbines. The HyStOH consortium was formed in 2016 and now includes LINNHOFF Offshore AF, JORSS-BLUNCK-ORDEMANN GmbH, DNV-GL, Hamburg University of Technology and the Institute for Ship Structural Design and Analysis.
The floating-platform uses modular welded-steel box-shaped structures to cut manufacturing costs. A design feature is the application of shipbuilding principles through standardized modular steel structures. The ultimate goal of the consortium is to drive down floating wind farm’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE) to a rate comparable to onshore wind.
HyStOH has joined in the race to develop cheap offshore wind energy with Equinor, developer of the Hywind project. Hywind, the first offshore floating wind farm pilot project, began operation off the northeast coast of Scotland on October 18, 2017. Equinor believes floating offshore wind farms can generate power for less than U.S. 3¢ per kWh, which would be one of the lowest cost sources of energy in the world.
The first offshore wind farm in the United States commenced operations off the coast of Rhode Island in December 2018. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Virginia are actively pursuing offshore wind energy.
Technology is continuing to drive down the cost of renewable energy, which is why demand for coal fueled-power plants has been steadily declining over the past decade. If the floating offshore wind pilot projects are successful, then wind will become the cheapest fuel in the world, dramatically decreasing the demand for fossil fuels.
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