What is Offshore Wind?
Offshore wind farms are large quantities of wind turbines that are cited offshore, and the only difference between offshore farms and land farms are that these wind farms lie over bodies of water.1 Offshore wind can deliver large amounts of clean, renewable energy to fulfill the electrical needs of cities along U.S. coastlines. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the technical resource potential for U.S. offshore wind is more than 2000 gigawatts of capacity, or 7200 terawatt-hours per year of generation.Electricity produced by offshore wind turbines travels back to land through a series of cable systems that are buried in the sea floor. This electricity is channeled through coastal load centers that prioritize where the electricity should go and distributes it into the electrical grid to power our homes, schools, and businesses.2
There are many advantages to offshore wind:
- Offshore wind speeds are faster than on land, and small increases in wind speed will yield large increases in energy production. For example, a turbine in a 15mph wind can generate twice as much energy as a turbine in a 12mph wind. Faster wind speeds offshore mean much more energy can be generated.
- Offshore wind speeds are also steadier than on land, which results in a more reliable source of energy.
- Coastal areas have very high energy needs, and offshore wind can provide this energy.
- Offshore wind farms have many of the same advantages as land-based wind farms.3
- Offshore wind farms create many jobs in the area for tradesmen and local businesses alike.5
There are also a few disadvantages that need to be considered.
- Offshore wind farms can be expensive and difficult to build and maintain, due to waves, high wind, heavy storms, and installation under the seafloor.
- The effects of offshore wind on marine animals are not fully understood.
- Offshore wind farms may be unpopular among local residents, as well as affecting tourism and property values.3
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) works collaboratively with industry and academia to address research challenges that are unique to U.S. offshore wind (like hurricanes), and to understand and address market barriers such as environmental impacts, logistical challenges, siting and permitting, and infrastructure development. Finally, DOE is also working to demonstrate advanced technologies.2
The UK in particular has been setting new national wind power records, with total wind power produced during December of 2013 reaching 2,841,080 MWh, which is enough to power 5.7 million British homes or 10% of Britain’s total electricity demand. Britain is getting more electricity from offshore wind farms than all other countries combined.4
In the U.S., the State Pier is being turned into a modern, heavy-lift facility that supports offshore wind development and will provide opportunities for welders, electricians, carpenters, and other trades. Once the pier is completed, the same skilled workforce will be needed to carry out the assembly work on the pier for offshore wind turbines, promising an economic return for at least the next decade. Local manufacturers and suppliers have already begun laying the groundwork for developing and supporting a local offshore wind supply chain. As more states move forward on their commitments to renewable energy there will be increasing opportunities for offshore wind development, which means more activity at State Pier and greater incentives for offshore wind suppliers and manufacturers to come to southeastern Connecticut and put down roots.5
In conclusion, offshore wind farms have many of the benefits of land farms, plus many more. Offshore wind is a viable option for renewable energy and we can expect the industry to grow further in this sector in the future.
1Dreyer, Jack. (Dec 15, 2017). The Benefits and Drawbacks of Offshore Wind Farms. Retrieved from Stanford.edu: http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph240/dreyer2/
2Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (August 12, 2019). Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Offshore Wind Energy. Retrieved from energy.gov: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/articles/top-10-things-you-didn-t-know-about-offshore-wind-energy
3American Geosciences Institute. (2019). What are the advantages and disadvantages of offshore wind farms? Retrieved from americangeosciences.org: https://www.americangeosciences.org/critical-issues/faq/what-are-advantages-and-disadvantages-offshore-wind-farms
4Richard, Michael Graham. (February 19, 2014). The UK has more offshore wind power than all other countries… combined. Retrieved from treehugger.com: https://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/uk-has-more-offshore-wind-power-all-other-countries-combined.html
5Brothers, Keith. (September 2, 2019). Offshore wind means real jobs, growth for Thames River. Retrieved from hartfordbusiness.com: https://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/offshore-wind-means-real-jobs-growth-for-thames-river