Wind is a form of solar energy and is a result of the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the irregularities of the earth’s surface and the rotation of the earth.
Wind flow patterns and speeds vary greatly across the United States and are modified by bodies of water, vegetation and differences in terrain. Humans use this wind flow, or motion energy, for many purposes: sailing, flying a kite, and now in recent history — generating electricity.
Offshore wind speeds are generally faster than wind speeds on land. This is why offshore wind farms have become a popular enterprise for producing clean, renewable energy over the past two decades. Just incremental increases in wind speed yield large increases in energy production: A turbine in a 15-mph wind can generate twice as much energy as a turbine in a 12-mph wind.
Offshore wind speeds also tend to be steadier than on land.A steadier supply of wind means a more reliable source of energy – an important factor for an electric grid that needs dependable 24/7 load factors. It’s also important because heavy concentrations of people live in coastal areas, where energy needs are therefore greatest.
In fact, half of the United States’ population lives in coastal areas. Building offshore wind farms in these areas can help to meet those energy needs from nearby sources.
And, like their land-based cousins, offshore wind farms do not consume water, they provide a domestic energy source, create jobs and they do not emit environmental pollutants or greenhouse gases.
But it’s not a perfect arrangement. Some of the disadvantages of offshore wind farms include:
- Offshore wind farms can be expensive and difficult to build and maintain. In particular: It is very hard to build robust and secure wind farms in water deeper than around 200 feet (over half a football field’s length). Although coastal waters off the East Coast of the U.S. are relatively shallow, almost all of the potential wind energy resources off the West Coast are in waters exceeding this depth.One work around is the deployment of floating wind turbines to overcome this challenge.
- Coastal areas can be victimized by severe storms. Wave action and very high winds, particularly during heavy storms or hurricanes, can damage wind turbines.
- The production and installation of power cables under the seafloor to transmit electricity back to land can be very expensive.
- Effects of offshore wind farms on marine animals and birds are not fully understood.
- Offshore wind farms built within view of the coastline (up to 26 miles offshore, depending on viewing conditions) may be unpopular among local residents, who often voice concerns about the impact on tourism and property values.
Want to know more about offshore wind farms? Tonex offers Offshore Windfarm Training, a 2-day course that help participants to understand the technological developments of offshore wind farms, different types of wind turbines implemented for offshore projects, control of offshore wind farms, protection and reliability assessment of offshore wind technologies.
Additionally, Tonex offers more than two dozen courses in Power and Energy – everything from power grid and microgrid training to NERC CIP, offshore wind farms, smart grids, synchronous machines and much more.
For more information, questions, comments, contact us.