Mother Earth Day is celebrated tomorrow and is a good time to stop and reflect on alternative energy sources and new cleantech such as floating wind turbines. For many years, black energy sources such as oil and coal have been used to generate energy. But nature is suffering, and fossil fuels only exacerbate the environmental impact of human activity. April 22 marks Mother Earth Day 2022, a wonderful occasion used to celebrate fauna and flora, the wildlife and nature. But it is also a suitable opportunity and the right time to address global problems and to mobilize political will to take action.
Decarbonizing the industry
According to the UNEP, energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, 3 billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. Therefore, the United Nations implemented Sustainable Development Goal 7, Affordable and Clean Energy, where one of the targets is to increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. The environment provides a series of renewable energy sources i.e. wind – a source that can be used both on land and offshore. Offshore wind is especially suitable for countries with big costal areas and will play a big role in decarbonization and transitioning towards a cleaner energy supply. The past few years, a new player in cleantech has emerged: floating offshore wind turbines – allowing globalization of offshore wind.
Floating offshore wind
In the recent years, the development of offshore wind has increased significantly. Firstly, offshore wind farms generate more electricity than onshore wind due to higher wind speeds at sea. Secondly, onshore wind farms often fall victim to the concept of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) and visual pollution; people may advocate for green energy as long as it does not affect their lives.
Offshore wind has until recently always been based on fixed structures which have limited the turbines to be put up in relatively shallow water. For countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark, this has not been a problem, and the first offshore wind farm was already erected in 1991 in Denmark.
Floating wind turbines are not anchored at the seabed; thus, it paves the way for more competition as countries with deep water can enter the market without barriers.
Scotland and Portugal: frontrunners in offshore wind
There are currently three operational floating wind farms and are found in Scotland and Portugal.
The first floating wind farm was commissioned in 2017 in Peterhead, Scotland, and is composed by Norwegian technology. The farm consists of five turbines with a total capacity of 30 MW, and it achieved an average capacity factor of 57.1% in 2021. The Hywind farm has been the best performing offshore wind farm in the UK for three consecutive years (in 2021).
The third first floating wind farm, the Kincardine Offshore Windfarm in Aberdeen, Scotland, is dubbed the world’s largest and consists of six turbines totaling to 50 MW. This project is said to power more than 50,000 homes and could help other countries achieve their energy targets.
In February 2022, at the conference “Generating energy for the world and preserving the planet” in Lisbon, experts declared that floating wind power might be the solution to generate energy in Portugal. President of the Blue Ocean Foundation, Tiago Pitta e Cunha, stated that “offshore wind is especially relevant to Portugal, that can’t help but rely on fossil sources without having “renewable alternative means””.
In July 2020, the 25 MW floating offshore wind farm, WindFloat Atlantic, outside Viana do Castelo, Portugal, started supplying electricity. The farm features three Vestas turbines and has been declared to generate energy to around 60,000 users, thus saving 1.1 million tons of CO2. In the first year of operation, WindFloat Atlantic reached 75 GWh, which is enough to supply 60,000 inhabitants.
The three wind farms are the first examples of floating wind in a fast-emerging market, and have showed the advantages of the floating cleantech. With the success of floating wind turbines, it is just a question of time before other countries follow in the footsteps of Portugal and Scotland, and thus create a ripple effect resulting in a greener technology, a greener tomorrow.
Not only will this help countries with the green transition, but may also help the economy and welfare of African countries with long coastlines.
So when celebrating Mother Earth Day, let’s think about how we can preserve the planet while improving well-being, economic growth, innovation and infrastructure around the world by using new, alternative sources of cleantech.
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