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Offshore: The future of wind energy

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As the world continues to make strides towards the use of cleaner energy sources in an effort to drive down carbon emissions, the focus for wind farming looks likely to lie in the development of offshore plants. In this article, we’ll look at the growth and development of the wind power industry, and how it can continue to contribute to national targets and ultimately drive job creation.


It shouldn’t be ignored that the advantages and disadvantages of wind power are still the subject of heated debate; while it’s a cleaner source of energy and another step towards driving down carbon emissions, it is still significantly more expensive to produce wind-sourced energy when compared with more ‘conventional’ sources such as nuclear and thermal energy. Ultimately, wind power needs to be subsidised, mainly in the form of preferential feed-in tariffs.


Secondly, wind as a source of energy can be unpredictable and uncontrollable, which can result in large swings in output and even shutdowns. But as the issue of intermittence also applies to other forms of energy, namely PV systems, it’s estimated that a large-scale grid can integrate a wind energy penetration rate of 20% without experiencing any major technical problems.


Wind power is a fast-growing industry

But despite these difficulties, wind power is rapidly developing in practically every part of the world, with growth rates ranging between 10-40% per year. The EU is particularly well positioned, thanks to its assertive policy of developing renewable energies; in 2017, a total of 15,680 MW of wind power was installed, representing 55% of all new power capacity.


Furthermore, wind power within the EU generated 336 TWh of electricity – enough to supply 11.6% of the EU’s electricity consumption. As the wind industry continues to grow, it’s estimated that wind energy could account for 13% of electricity consumed in the EU by 2020.


Within Europe, the main focus is on offshore development, with the UK, Germany and Denmark spearheading this drive – and the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) projects that offshore installed capacity will increase to 40 GW in 2020, up from 6.5 GW in 2013.


As we’ve already discussed, the generation of wind farms is costly, and so to reduce investment costs, researchers are now considering the possibility of using existing offshore oil platforms that are nearing the end of their useful life, and this could hold real potential. Added to this is the facts that corporates are playing a catalytic role for the deployment of renewables worldwide, as more and more companies are procuring or aiming to procure 100% renewable energy.


The number of corporate organisations backing wind power, and renewable energy as a whole, has also dramatically increased over recent years. In choosing renewable energy as a commercial and strategic priority, corporates are able to show a leadership and huge commitment in the global sustainability agenda.


With this is mind we’re likely to see in increase in the development of offshore wind farms, particularly within the EU, which will contribute to international targets, drive job creation and ultimately grow the industry.

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