The boom in offshore wind energy

Offshore wind farms are seen as a key ingredient in renewable energy policy, and an important element in the battle against climate change, playing a leading role in meeting renewable energy and carbon emission targets and improving energy security for the future.

Investment in offshore wind grew 40% in 2016 despite a fall in funding for new clean energy, from $21.4billion to $29.9billion, and in the same year, the UK generated more electricity from wind power than from coal for the first time. The UK celebrated 25 years of wind power last year and is considered the best location for wind power across Europe.

So, in recent years why has there been a boom in offshore wind farms?

The alarming rate of climate change has seen a quick evolution of renewable energy solutions. And in the wind power sector, wind turbines have been getting bigger. In the beginning, they had a rotor diameter of 76m, now the overall diameter of the rotor is a staggering 164m wide. In 17 years the peak power has grown from 2MW to a turbine capacity of 8MW.

To accommodate the expanding size of the rotor the total height of wind turbines are also getting taller. In 2000, they stood at 102 meters in height, they now stand at almost double the size; a towering 195m.

Not only are they getting bigger, wind turbines are being built further out to sea. New floating turbines are key to opening up more locations for wind farms. Currently, traditional turbines can only stand in 60m of water; these innovative creations will be able to stand in much deeper waters collecting more energy.

In the current climate, offshore wind farms have proven to be more expensive than those located onshore. Onshore wind farms are the cheapest source of energy with an average cost of $47billion, and as it stands offshore wind costs $119billion. Nuclear, geothermal and biomass energy all cost $117billion respectively, whilst hydro energy costs on average a distressing $163billion. Gas energy, generated from efficient combined cycle turbines, is the other low costing alternative to onshore wind farms, costing on average $63billion.

With the advancement of technology in the industry including expertise growth and an improvement in infrastructure, the costs of offshore wind are predicted to fall. Projected costs show that by 2030 the average cost of offshore wind will be $76billion, compared to the $119billion it cost in 2016, and the eye-watering $174billion total average costs in 2010.

The industry has enormous potential and it’s not only the wind farms that are growing, from 2014 – 2024 the number of wind turbine service technicians will grow by a whopping 108% as a new sector has been created.

Fossil fuels are nonrenewable drawing on finite resources that will eventually dwindle, becoming too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve. Renewable energies are crucial to lowering environmental damage as well as the security of power for future generations as other sources deplete.

For more information, please view this detailed infographic by RS Components.