A couple of the common complaints regarding wind power as an alternative source of energy is that, firstly, they are noisome contraptions disturbing those forced to be in close vicinity, and secondly, that they do not produce enough power because they stop generating when the wind stops blowing. However, those arguments don’t hold much weight when considering offshore wind farms. These are wind turbines that are situated off the coast, in the ocean (or sometimes even lakes and dams). Offshore, wind blows stronger and more consistently, proving to be a better source of wind power. Further, the noise doesn’t bother anyone.
Offshore wind farms are not new, as they have been in existence since 1991. However, it was only in the beginning of April, 2013, that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that America could finally be seeing its first offshore wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean, followed by a host of wind farms cropping up from Maine to Virginia.
Europe has already been host to a robust offshore wind farming industry for many years now. In 2011, a Denmark’s leading energy company, DONG Energy, claimed that offshore wind turbines were not yet competitive with fossil fuels, but estimated that they would be in 15 years. That would be exciting to see come to pass.
With the benefits of offshore farms, it need be mentioned that unfortunately this technology is for the most part still very expensive, which is a major inhibiting factor. Traditionally, they use fixed-bottom wind turbine technologies, which root the turbines into the seabed. There is technology available to use floating devices instead, but this is hardly used.
Some great energy news, however is that Japan has been making strides in the use of floating wind turbines that could potentially be far cheaper than current technology, making this source of power much more economically viable. Japan’s testing an unusual type of floating offshore wind turbine about one km off Kabashima. The wind turbine has a 22-meter propeller arc diameter, and generates 100 kWh.
The pillar is anchored to the bottom with its lower hollow core filled with seawater to keep it upright. The upper part of the pillar is made of steel, while the lower part is made of concrete, allowing for much lower costs than those made entirely of steel.
Wind turbines embedded into the seabed are usually constructed at depths of up to 50 meters. But Japan, despite being an island nation, lack sufficient shallow beaches, making this typical setup difficult. As is often the case in such situations, necessity and challenge has innovation.
Queenie Bates is an avid reader, researcher and writer, whose interest lies particularly in the field of sustainability. Image source