Floating offshore wind farms add flexibility to a renewable energy resource but power transmission to land is a challenging problem

A recent article in Guardian (Link) reports the imminent deployment of a floating offshore wind turbine farm off the northeast coast of Scotland. Compared to conventional wind turbine with moorings on the seabed, floating offshore wind turbine farms are built on large floating structures, and enable windfarms to be deployed at longer distances off the coast in areas where the water depth is more than 40 metres.


Hence, offshore floating wind turbine farm offers flexibility to a locality in sitting a renewable energy capture apparatus, capable of generating significant savings in carbon emissions for electricity generation. More importantly, floating wind turbine farms afford coastal areas with significant shipping activity or busy shipping lanes an option to use offshore wind as a renewable energy resource, by parking the offshore floating wind turbine farm in less congested waters further away from the major sea lanes. Doing so allows localities to fully utilize the wind potential in an area after a detailed wind profile map is generated by extensive surveys across seasons, while also avoiding the challenges usually associated with offshore wind, for example, potential hampering of shipping activities.


While floating offshore wind farms allow wind turbines to be flexibly placed where there is significant wind potential, it does not solve the existential challenge of offshore wind: how to channel the generated electricity to shore via electricity cables. One option would be to use large underwater cable, but given the depth of water where offshore floating wind turbine farms find the most utility, laying of underwater electricity cable would incur substantial cost and is of significant engineering challenge.


Overall, floating offshore wind turbine farms offer coastal cities an option to tap into the wind potential around the surrounding area, while avoiding the economic cost of disturbing shipping activities of a busy port due to the building of fixed mooring offshore wind turbine farms. Capable to be sited at places with water depth beyond 40 metres, offshore floating wind turbine farms can be a significant contributor in reducing a city’s carbon dioxide emissions. However, potential high cost of floating offshore wind turbine farm in engineering structures for deep seas, as well as difficulty of conveying generated electricity to land, meant that a distinct trade-off exists in electing to use such wind turbine farms to tap into wind power for electricity. Where should such a trade-off be hinged depends on an overall economic, technical challenge and environmental assessment of the utility, feasibility and difficulty of an offshore floating wind turbine project.


Category: renewable energy, climate change,

Tags: wind turbine, offshore floating structures, electricity cables, shipping activities, economic assessment, environmental assessment, wind potential, wind farm,


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