Monday, January 7, 2013

Offshore wind farms - Good to know

Offshore wind projects are growing in popularity, and are set to become interesting renewable energy option for many countries in the world in not that far future from now. At the end of 2011 there was just 12 countries in the world that have installed offshore wind farms (of which ten are in Europe) but this number will likely significantly increase in years to come.

The main disadvantage of offshore wind farms are high construction costs. Offshore wind energy projects have higher costs compared to the ones on land because not only do they need to withstand rough weather conditions but their maintenance is highly complex and thus very expensive. On the other hand, offshore wind farms have several advantages over wind farms on land, with most notable being more powerful and much more frequent winds resulting in higher output.

The price gap between offshore and onshore wind farms still remains significant but many energy experts believe this gap is likely to narrow in next few decades. Offshore wind energy technologies still need time to mature, and the development of new technologies should drive down the total costs connected with offshore wind projects. Offshore wind industry could for instance gather plenty of know-how from the offshore oil and gas industry because of the same basic principles of these two industries.

Offshore wind farms utilize much larger wind turbines than wind farms on land, and Norway company Veritas (which tests wind turbines before they can obtain certificate) believes that offshore wind turbines are likely to reach gigantic size with blades 85 meters (280 ft) long by 2020, and 10 MW output which is enough to provide electricity to around 3,000 average U.S. households.

Of course, offshore wind industry cannot move further without the adequate funding, and Veritas believes that offshore wind industry will need subsidies for years since their current costs are about 40 to 60 percent above those for offshore wind industry.

Offshore wind technologies are particularly popular in Britain and Britain certainly looks ready to maintain its position as global offshore wind energy leader for foreseeable future. In 2010 Britain granted licenses for 32 gigawatts of offshore wind as the part of a European Union goal to get 20 percent of energy from renewables.

At the end of 2010, the worldwide installed offshore wind capacity accounted to approximately 3.2 gigawatts. The world's largest offshore wind farm is located in United Kingdom, Walney Wind Farm with the capacity of 647 MW.