Offshore Wind Energy Picking Up Speed
“In the North Sea alone we have a potential to economically exploit the offshore resources to cover seven times Europe’s total energy consumption. We wouldn’t have to import fuel if we can tap into that.” Christian Kjaer, chief executive at the European Wind Energy Association, is not talking about deep sea drilling, but offshore wind turbines, which have doubled their total power production over the past three years to 866 megawatts, MarketWatch reports.
Though offshore wind farms are still outnumbered by their land-based equivalents, they are growing at an accelerated rate.Wind turbines need to be placed in areas that have a fairly consistent current of usable wind. Large flat expanses, like prairies, are best, though nothing is flatter than a body of water. Of course, farms still need to be near enough to shore that power can easily reach land.
The majority of offshore wind energy development in 2011 (about 80 percent) was developed privately by utility companies. Some experts are citing increased fossil fuel costs as making wind power more attractive.
Besides taking advantage of the flat expanses and unused wind energy just offshore, another advantage is not having to deal with complainants who say wind turbines ruin their view. Not long ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists ran a sadly funny cartoon on this topic:
(Image credit: Joe Heller)
Frankly, I’ve always considered wind turbines very sleek and attractive. Even more so when one thinks about what’s not hidden inside those towers. No cauldron of toxic smoke, no nuclear waste, minimal (though not zero) disturbance to the local environment and wildlife.
Here’s the first image I ever saw of a wind farm, in a futuristic animated sci-fi movie from the 1990s:
(Image credit: Bandai)
Isn’t that lovely? Maybe that’s why when I hear about the growth of the wind power industry, I feel like we’re taking one step further into the future, and one step further away from this kind of thing:
(Photo credit: Wknight 94)
Let’s hope this trend continues.
Photo credit: Hans Hillewaert