If you keep up with renewable energy industry news, you’ve probably noticed a lot of headlines about offshore wind energy. The development of offshore wind farms has already gained traction in several European countries over the past couple of years, but now other nations are joining in, including the United States. Here are a few things you should know about this growing trend.
Offshore Wind in the U.S.
Americans witnessed the installation of the first U.S. offshore wind project this year in Providence, Rhode Island. The Block Island wind farm consists of five turbines and is capable of producing 30 MW of energy. And, there are no signs the U.S. is slowing down.
The Obama administration is pushing for policies that will bring 22 GW of off-shore wind capacity online by 2030, and 86 GW by 2050, as outlined in the National Offshore Wind Strategy report from the U.S. Departments of Energy (DOE) and Interior (DOI).
The report states that U.S. coastal waters have potential offshore wind capacity of 2,058 GW, which could produce almost twice the total electric energy generated in 2015. While it’s not likely that the U.S. would ever reach such numbers, this statistic illustrates the enormous potential of pursuing more offshore wind projects.
Offshore Wind Abroad
The United States is only getting started with offshore wind, but it’s already made a big splash at the global level. According to a report from Navigant Research, the global offshore wind market reached nearly 12 GW in total capacity in 2015.
Europe has been at the forefront of offshore wind development, which is evident in the amount of energy capacity installed by Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands — the report shows that Germany produced the most offshore wind energy, bringing 2,467 MW. The UK came in second with 1,054 MW of capacity, and the Netherlands brought on 129 MW.
Innovations in Offshore Design
Of course, there are a few obstacles that offshore wind developers have to overcome. Gaining approval for such projects relies on policies to make offshore wind more affordable, finding ways to impact the environment as little as possible and getting general buy-in from residents of coastal areas.
Researchers at the University of Maine are tackling some of these concerns with the development of floating wind farms. By creating floating turbines and using anchors to keep them in place, developers would have greater flexibility in where they place their projects (further away from the shore where they aren’t as visible) and reduce the effect on marine life by minimizing the infrastructure that goes below the surface.
If a viable model can be developed, floating turbines would also be more convenient to repair and replace, as individual turbines could be hauled to shore with minimal disturbance.