What Does the Future of Offshore Wind Energy Look Like?
Wind power is a leading concept in the renewable energy industry. Alongside solar, wind energy is a sustainable resource that can generate enough electricity to power cities and states. With mass implementation, wind power can make entire countries sustainable. Offshore wind, specifically, is the leading pursuit within this sector.
The future of offshore wind energy will continue to develop regarding efficiency, power, technology and structure. With new changes and bigger investments, wind can become a leader within the renewables industry.
Wind turbines aren't new inventions, but they started becoming more energy efficient during the 19th century. Developers realized that harnessing power from the wind, especially offshore, could create electricity without harming the environment in the same ways that fossil fuels do. Therefore, as a low-carbon energy source, wind energy is a sustainable option.
In the future, wind power will see even more updates to make it more efficient. With more aerodynamic blades, turbines can handle all types of winds — from low to high speeds and changing patterns. Durability and sturdiness, too, always have room for improvement. The more these turbines and blades can withstand, the longer they will last, which saves money.
As turbines become more energy-efficient and cost-effective than they already are, investments will increase. Then, with these changes, experts can install the turbines on various coasts.
Offshore wind turbines can capture higher amounts of wind that persist over the ocean while taking up no space on land. Combining these energy efficiency improvements with offshore wind energy becomes the most viable option for the widespread adoption of wind-based power.
Energy sources of any kind require maintenance and monitoring. For wind, instances of harsh weather may prevent workers from accessing the turbines for repairs. However, new forms of technology can make this process easier.
Big data, the cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) overlap to help maintain wind energy. New systems and software can combine these three fields in different ways.
Big data can monitor the turbine's energy level statistics. If there will be a period of no wind, the turbines can reserve more energy for that duration. Cloud technology can deliver information in real-time to on-shore facilities so they can properly monitor the turbines. AI overlaps with data to provide insight into the turbines' health levels. It can predict which parts will need maintenance — a simple procedure that can then save money.
Drones also are new to the energy industry. Some of these vehicles can withstand harsh conditions, allowing them to monitor the turbines. Other times, workers can use them to record images and videos of the turbines to see what needs maintenance. Drones remove the need for workers to risk entering potentially dangerous environments.
Many wind turbines have a metal structure that cements them to the ocean floor. Developments in wind turbine structure may change that, though.
Floating turbines use heavy-duty cables that attach to the seabed. There is a basic structure that connects the turbines to the cables, but it forgoes the main metal setup. This design helps with wider integration — it saves money and is easier to install in deeper waters.
Floating models appeal to locations with complicated coastal climates. There are eight different climate zones in North America alone. Offshore wind's durability, combined with new implementations, can withstand these changing climates since they each bring unique wind patterns that eventually become electricity.
The integration of wind energy, in any form, can ultimately benefit all 50 states in the U.S. by 2050 if it starts now.
The Climate Factor
The future of offshore wind energy holds many benefits, from improved efficiency to new technology and designs. Ultimately, wind energy is necessary on a global scale. Due to its sustainability and renewability, wind power reduces the effect of climate change. Therefore, our futures benefit from — and even need — this renewable electricity source.
Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.