Pictured: North Sea Wind Power Hub rendering/TenneT TSO GmbH
Large-scale construction projects are nothing new in the energy sector. However, an upcoming wind farm in the middle of the North Sea may soon set a new renewable energy record. Several European energy companies are now working on a colossal project that by 2027 could supply renewable energy to as many as 80 million people in Europe.
Dubbed as the North Sea Wind Power Hub, the project consists of a massive 2.3-square-mile artificial island, which will be erected in the relatively shallow area of the North Sea’s Dogger Bank and surrounded by thousands of giant wind turbines.
The island will have its own airstrip, harbor, staff housing, and even an artificial lake. It will serve as a hub for converting the wind-generated electricity from alternating to direct current and distributing it via underwater cables to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Norway and Denmark.
“Building an artificial island in place of traditional offshore substations will allow for a significant cost reduction with the added bonus of having a storage yard for parts during construction and maintenance of the wind farm,” says Auston Van Slyke, Wind Energy Technology Program Director at Ecotech Institute.
Projected to be operational in 2027, the power hub will be able to handle as much as 30 gigawatts of wind-generated energy — twice as much as the total current offshore wind power output across Europe.
In fact, the amount of energy generated by the power hub will be so large that additional gas-based transmission and storage methods will be used in addition to underwater cables.
“This is yet another great way to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of a wind farm,” says Van Slyke. “Storing and transmitting energy in gas form is usually considerably cheaper than storing and transmitting it in the form of electricity. Pumped hydro is yet another excellent way to store the excess power produced by wind farms during peak times. Employing various forms of energy storage and transmission can have a large effect on the amount of power actually produced by a wind farm.”
What About Artificial Islands for Offshore Wind Farms in the United States?
However, Van Slyke notes, we are not likely to see giant artificial islands being built off the United States’ shores any time soon. The Dogger Bank is a relatively unique area where the water depth ranges from 49 to 118 feet. It is both windy and shallow enough for a large-scale offshore wind farm and an artificial island.
“Unfortunately, such solutions cannot be implemented for most offshore wind farms in the United States or many other parts of the world where the water is much deeper,” says Van Slyke. “However, it may not be too long before we see a map of the waters around the world that are shallow enough for this application, overlaid with an average wind speed map that would allow us to find the hot spots where a similar approach could be applied.”