What is an offshore wind farm and how does it work?
What is an offshore wind farm and how does it work? Did you know that 2 of the 10 largest wind farms in the world are located at sea and not on land? Some of the most important infrastructures of this type are in the oceans. That’s why we tell you everything you want to know about an offshore wind farm and why interest in them is growing.
As you will see, they have some advantages over wind turbines located on land and some very interesting curiosities.
Why are offshore wind farms being built?
Installing large wind turbines in the water is interesting and attractive because they have two main advantages over wind farms located on land.
Why do offshore wind farms generate more energy than onshore wind farms?
For a very simple reason, winds are more powerful at sea compared to those blowing on land and are affected by geography.
This means that, with the same installed capacity, the marine farm generates more energy because the wind blows longer with greater power.
Why is there less opposition to their installation?
We all understand the need to generate clean energy to combat climate change, without giving up our way of life and technological progress. However, it is true that large areas of solar panels or wind turbines are not very pleasing to the eye.
In addition to the aesthetic aspect, they can generate noise problems or make tourism less attractive for the area. For this reason, in many places, there is opposition to installing wind turbines on their land.
However, in the ocean, they are more socially acceptable because they are not visible, as they are not close to inhabited areas or within a specific region.
The disadvantages of offshore wind farms
Why is it more expensive to install an offshore wind farm?
The main reason is clear: it is much more difficult to build in the middle of the ocean, to transport the parts, more specialized machinery and operators are also required. Similarly, the construction materials for offshore wind turbines cannot be the same as on land.
A large part of the tower is submerged, so they have to withstand extreme conditions of humidity and salinity. Likewise, they have to be more resistant to the rest of the elements.
All this makes the initial investment more expensive than in the case of wind turbines located on land.
Why is it more difficult to maintain an offshore wind farm?
Mainly because of the difficulty of access to the site. This has to be by helicopter or boat, whereas an onshore wind farm can be reached by car.
In addition, if a breakdown has occurred underwater, it is necessary to use more specialized divers and, in the case of parts replacement, it must be remembered that these are more expensive because they have to withstand more inclement weather.
Why do they have a shorter service life?
Precisely because of the greater wear and tear caused by being in areas more affected by wind and storms. This makes it necessary to take more care of the parts and carry out more replacements to reduce the useful life.
In the end, these higher operating and maintenance costs are what prevent offshore wind farms from being more widespread.
What are the largest offshore wind farms in the world?
Britain has invested heavily in renewable energy in recent years. Being an island, it is not unusual that one of its main targets has been offshore wind energy.
That is why the two largest offshore wind farms in the world are located within British waters, and, as we mentioned at the beginning, they are so huge that they are among the 10 largest on the planet.
The most modern of these is the Walney Extension Wind Farm. Located in the Irish Sea (19 kilometres off Walney Island), this plant has an installed capacity of 659 MW and occupies no less than 145 square kilometres.
As of September 2018, it is capable of supplying power to 600,000 British households.
As we can see, offshore wind farms are very important, especially for areas and countries like Great Britain, which have greater potential to generate energy in their seas than on their land. A key part of clean generation, new materials technologies may make them simpler and more cost-effective to install in the future.