The Case for Offshore Wind Farms

Written by on November 8, 2013 in Technology

Of all the possibilities for renewable energy, wind power might be the best option. Offshore wind farm are popping up all over Europe and you might soon see them off the coast of the United States.

Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm off Copenhagen, Denmark.

Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm off Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo credit: LH_Wong via photopin cc.

The Case for Offshore Wind Farms in the United States:

  • The wind is faster and the area is bigger offshore so turbines can be huge and they will generate more power than land-based wind farms.
  • One gigawatt of offshore wind power capacity generates an average of 3.4 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity annually. Generating that amount of electricity with fossil fuels would consume 1.7 million tons of coal or 27.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas, emitting 2.7 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
  • Wind power off the shores of the U.S. and Great Lakes has four times the energy potential of the entire U.S electric power system.
  • According to a report from the Department of Energy, the offshore wind market in the U.S. could create up to 200,000 jobs and drive more than $70 billion in annual investments.

The Negatives of Offshore Wind Farms:

  • Construction. The impacts of the construction of wind farms on marine life is largely unknown. A US/UK research team studied construction in and around the North Sea to develop a framework for assessing the impacts on marine mammal populations. Check it out.
  • Cost. The wind is stronger the further you go offshore, but installing turbines in deeper water is more dangerous and more expensive.
  • Birds. Many fear that migrating birds will be killed in wind turbines. That’s a pretty big issue on land (the Associated Press reported that more than 573,000 birds are killed by wind farms in the U.S. every year), but hopefully will be less of an issue offshore. In order to avoid killing birds, researchers are tracking flight patterns of the many seabirds that flock to Maine islands every summer. Researchers know where they are and what they do when they’re on the islands, but are not so sure where they go when the leave in the fall. Now, using radio and satellite telemetry, researchers are tracing migration patterns and pinpointing crucial foraging and nesting grounds in order to avoid installing wind turbines in areas would potentially harm the birds. Learn more here.

Successful Offshore Wind Projects:

Denmark
Denmark is home to the third largest offshore wind farm with a capacity of 400 megawatts. Construction of the Anholt offshore wind farm began in September 2013. All 111 turbines were fully operational by June 2013. The turbines have the potential to power 400,000 homes, which represents four percent of total Danish electricity consumption.

Germany
Generating the same amount of power as the Anholt wind farm, BARD Offshore 1 has 400 megawatt capacity, enough to power 400,000 homes. BARD Offshore 1 has a total of 80 wind turbines and was the offshore first wind farm project in Germany.

Japan
Twelve miles off the coast of Fukushima, a 350-foot tall floating wind turbine is set to be switched on sometime this month. By itself, it will generate enough electricity for 1,700 homes. But it is just the beginning of a much more ambitious project: to generate more than one gigawatt of electricity from 140 wind turbines by 2020 — the same amount of energy generated by a nuclear reactor.

Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm.

Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm. Photo credit: DECCgovuk via photopin cc.

United Kingdom
The London Array is the world’s largest offshore wind farm with 175 turbines and a 630 megawatt capacity located in the Thames estuary. The farm has the capacity to power 470,000 homes and is predicted to save 925,000 tons of CO2 a year. It has been open since April 2013.

The UK is also home to the second largest offshore wind farm in the world, Greater Gabbard. Greater Gabbard has 140 turbines and will double in size by 2017. It has the potential to power 11 million homes.

To learn more, check out some of these links:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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