Sustainability is the core agenda of smart cities around the world. The greatest component that contributes to it is renewable energy which the urban world is constantly focusing on is the key to overcoming the emission challenges. There are different ways through which renewable energy can be acquired. But today we delve into knowing the increasing trend of offshore wind farms. According to a recent study, floating wind turbines at sea could generate up to three times more electricity compared to turbines on land.
By the end of 2017, global offshore wind power reached a capacity of 18.8 GW. Most of this energy comes from European waters – where the largest offshore wind farms are situated.
Which are the top 3 offshore wind projects in the world? What are the advantages and disadvantages of floating wind turbines? Let us find out these answers!
Walney Extension – The Largest Offshore Wind Farm In The World Is In The UK
The largest offshore wind farm on earth is located in Cumbria, on the northwest coast of England. The farm was officially opened last year in September 2018. This floating farm extends across an area of 55 square miles – equal to 20,000 soccer fields.
Walney Extension is a £1bn wind farm owned by Denmark’s Ørsted. It is made up of 87 wind turbines and utilises the latest technology from the leading turbine manufacturers of the world namely MHI Vestas (47 turbines) and Siemens Gamesa (40).
Each turbine has is optimised to create 8.25 megawatts of electricity. In total, 659 megawatts, the turbines can generate 659 megawatts of energy – enough to power 600,000 homes.
Most of the largest floating wind farms are found in the UK (36% of the globally installed wind capacity). Walney Extension, in particular, shares the industry’s amazing success story with the world. The project was accomplished on time and within the budget. The project is a huge step that shows Ørsted’s vision of a world that operates completely on green energy.
Furthermore, more than 50 local suppliers across the UK from Carlisle to Lancaster were involved in throughout the development of the project. Upon completion, the wind farm is able to operate out of Barrow up to 1.5 GW of energy which can power 1.2 million homes in the UK.
The ongoing operations and maintenance activities of the wind farm will create over 250 jobs in the region while helping tackle climate change and deliver clean growth to local economies.
Coming as surprise, the Walney extension is not going to hold this title for long as Scottish Power’s East Anglia One is about to open in 2020. This floating wind farm claims to have even greater capacity at 714 megawatts.
London Array – The Second Largest Offshore Wind Farm In The World
For a long time, London Array was the largest offshore wind farm in the world – just before the construction of Walney Extension. Today, it takes the second spot because the turbines of the Walney Extension are larger and more powerful along with the fact that they are installed further out to sea enabling them to harness more wind.
London Array is located 20 km off the coast of Kent in the outer Thames Estuary in the UK. The farm reaches a water depth up to 82 feet. Phase 1 of the construction commenced in March 2011 and began generating power by the end of October 2013. Phase 2 whose construction would have reached 1000 MW by addition of 166 turbines was cancelled due to concerns on bird life in the region.
Hence, the wind farm comprises 175 turbines that produce 630 megawatts of electricity which is sufficient to power 75000 homes per year.
Gemini – The Third Largest Offshore Wind Farm
Gemini is a 2.8 billion euro farm located off the coast of Netherlands. It is the largest project financing for an offshore wind park.
The farm consists of two parts with one situated north of Ameland having 75 turbines and the second part located 34 miles northwards from Schiermonnikoog having the same number of turbines. Gemini wind farm has the capacity to produce 600 megawatts of green energy to power 800,000 households.
Even though the original plan was to complete the construction by the end of 2015, the process began in the first quarter of 2015 due to unforeseen delays. Officially, the farm opened on February 2016 and by the end of the year in December it had 150 turbines working. The wind farm was fully commissioned in 2017.
What Are The Benefits Of Floating Wind Farms?
- Faster Wind Speed – Offshore wind speed is faster than on land. Even a small increase in wind speed can lead to greater generation of energy. For example, a turbine in a 15-mph wind can produce two times more energy than a turbine in a 12-mph wind.
- Steady Winds – A steady supply of wind is a reliable source of renewable energy. Offshore wind speeds are steadier than on land.
- Meet Coastal Requirements – Many smart cities and other regions around the world are situated near coastal areas. For example, half of the population in the US lives in coastal areas. Hence, the construction of offshore wind farms in these areas can help meet energy demands from
near bysources in a sustainable manner.
- Cost-effective – The cost of installation of wind turbines is less compared to fossil-fuel generators. Moreover, they do not consume water or emit environmental pollution.
- Space Friendly – Offshore wind farms need minimal space for installation. Unlike on land, they do not occupy large areas. The lands can instead be dedicated to activities such as farming.
Are There Any Downsides?
- Unforeseen Damage – Very high winds, especially during heavy storms or hurricanes can damage wind turbines.
- High Cost Of Cables – Production and installation of power cables under the seabed to transfer electricity back to land can be very costly.
- Not Storable – Wind farms come as a big disadvantage as the wind cannot be stored for future use. Besides, when electricity is needed, it is tough to generate it instantly.
- Transportation – Offshore wind farms tend to be in areas that are far from cities. For example, transporting this form of energy to megacities that have high energy demand is expensive.
- Noise Pollution – Rotor blades of the turbines produce significant noise which is a concern.
- Wildlife Threat – Birds and bats get killed by windmills. Hence it can be argued that wind farms are a threat to wildlife. But the effect of offshore wind parks on marine animals is not yet fully understood.
Should Smart Cities Invest In Offshore Wind Farms?
The Future of offshore wind farms is still not very clear. Although it is pollution-free sustainable energy, it has both advantages and disadvantages. Some authorities describe them as the most expensive energy generating technology. Even historically, the costs of offshore wind farms have been higher than on land.
However, the costs are dropping quickly as the forerunners of wind-powered electricity envision to create more floating wind parks in the future.
If we talk from a different perspective, the smart cities and every other region on earth are facing the rage of nature. Considering what the climate change catastrophe can bring to us, is the cost of acquiring renewable energy more? Because even wildlife including birds are getting affected both directly and indirectly due to climate change.