Offshore Wind

vertical axis turbines

vertical axis wind turbines

In September 2010 I blogged about the opening of the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm, which was at that time the world’s largest offshore wind farm with 100 x 3 MW turbines giving total capacity of 300 MW. This week planning consent has just been given for the giant Dogger Bank Creyke Beck which will have a total capacity of 2.4 GW, or eight times the size of the Thanet one. The wind turbines are getting bigger too: Dong Energy has just placed orders for the new 8.0 MW Vestas wind turbine for the Burbo Bank wind farm off the coast of North Wales. Also in 2010 I blogged about the increasing size of individual wind turbines and the scale of wind farms; both trends continue apace. Britain is a world leader in terms of offshore deployment, although as we did not invest sufficiently in the early stages of development, the companies making the turbines are mainly German and Danish, who were the early investors and established their industries and are now reaping the rewards of global expansion. All this investment is however bringing huge numbers of jobs to Britain, especially to areas such as Humberside and the Isle of Wight and providing a rapidly growing source of zero carbon electricity.

What of the future? Many engineers suggest that if individual wind turbines are to get very much bigger, and they probably will, the look of them will change considerably. The ones we are used to seeing are horizontal axis turbines and 8 to 10 MW is probably the upper limit for such structures. For many years vertical axis turbines have been suggested as a better design for the next generation of super large turbines. Lots of experimentation has been going on and it is probable that development and deployment will soon commence in several countries. At the same time wind farms are being developed in ever deeper water, and beyond about 50 metres floating turbines will become necessary, and are currently being developed by several countries and companies. Japan is developing a very interesting floating hybrid vertical axis wind turbine and vertical axis tidal current turbine.

Currently the cost of floating wind turbines is quite high, but a recent report by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) suggests that by the 2020’s it is likely to be one of the cheapest forms of low carbon electricity, or indeed of any electricity. Early investors in this technology will be best placed to be at the forefront of rapid global expansion during the 2020’s.

Burbo Bank

Creyke Beck

For more on this whole topic

ETI report

Japanese hybrid wind/tidal