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Increased investment shows offshore wind power booming

In recent years, as climate change and global warming have become increasing threats, the world has turned to new sources of energy generation as the key to tackling greenhouse gas emissions. Central to this has been the burgeoning of wind turbines.

These work by converting kinetic (or movement) energy, created when wind spins the turbine rotor blades, in to electrical energy. Newer turbines can also store energy created during windier periods, to allow for a constant energy supply, even during still days.

And as technology and engineering have advanced, new methods of generating wind power have been explored, including offshore wind farms. These are groups of wind turbines built in the sea, at varying distances from the coast. They have the advantage of producing more energy than in-land turbines, due to the strength of the sea breeze - possibly up to 3 times that produced by terrestrial turbines. And, to boot, since nobody lives out at sea, it removes one of the principle and repetitive issue with wind turbines, which is that nobody seems to want to live next to one.

It’s no surprise, then, that offshore wind power has received extensive, and exponentially booming, funding in recent years. In 2016, amidst falling funding for other forms of clean energy, offshore wind received a 40% increase in funding globally, reaching a total of $30 billion in new investment alone. That’s a very significant amount of money.

Developments in the technology are also decreasing the cost of construction, encouraging a growth in development. In 2017, the average price per megawatt hour for offshore wind dropped from £117.14 two years ago, to just £57.50. That’s a drop of 50%. New floating turbines are allowing for the construction of wind farms in previously unusable areas, creating new opportunities for wind farm construction.

In-land turbines remain, despite progress in the field of offshore wind, cheaper, both to construct and maintain, and, consequently, still produce cheaper energy. A 2017 report suggested that whilst the levelised (or lifetime) cost of each unit of onshore wind was between $30 and $60 (approximately £22 and £45 respectively), for wind this was a much higher $113 (about £84).

Whilst offshore wind has much potential, and many advantages over onshore wind, there is still far to go until the technology is cost effective, for the builder or consumer. Although, with huge investment in wind, it is set to be the backbone of the green energy revolution. The transformative development of floating turbines will also make construction less pricey, and create more options for the location of wind farms.

The scope of investment in offshore wind is vast, and the evolution of these engineering masterpieces is speeding along at a frenetic and exciting pace. The budding usefulness of at sea wind turbines has clearly been picked up on by Governments, investors, engineers and scientists, and are sure to be a central weapon in the fight against climate change.

Offshore wind is booming, the wealthy and powerful are investing, and, very soon, your home may well be powered by cheap, green energy produced in a sea near you. The exploding revolution in energy producing technology is only just beginning, and offshore wind will be central to this.

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Discussions

The photo of Hurricane Maria damage to terrestrial wind machines in Naguabo, Puerto Rico is getting a lot of circulation. Off-shore wind development has to jump this hurdle which, for tropical cyclone regions, can be considerably worse than the gales that hit the North Sea.

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