Statista estimates that global wind power capacity reached 743 gigawatts in 2020. This is an increase of 650 gigawatts in 2019, despite delays due to COVID-19. Wind power is growing in popularity worldwide, as evidenced by the rapid rise in wind power installations.
Wind power is becoming more economically sustainable thanks to technological advances and international policies against climate change. China and the USA are still the largest wind power markets. Other countries such as the UK, North America, India, and Europe also contribute to this trend.
This video by the Global Wind Energy Council gives a comprehensive overview of the global market for wind power.
What is wind power?
Wind turbines are made when the air turns the carbon-fiber blades attached to the units. The edges are connected to a motor that converts kinetic energy to electricity. The point is transferred to a drive shaft, which converts slow spinning into high-speed rotary motion. The drive shaft is then quickly turned to power an electric generator.
Traditional onshore wind turbines were the dominant market. However, technological advances have allowed offshore wind farm technology to be developed in recent years.
You can find more information about the history of wind power in our post on how wind turbines have evolved.
What is Onshore Wind?
Onshore wind power is a turbine located on land and not over water. These turbines are often found in areas with low conservation value and sparsely populated areas. According to the International Energy Association, in 2019, onshore wind electricity generation increased by 12%. After stagnating for several years, capacity additions grew by 22%.
This video explains how offshore wind farms work.
Onshore wind has many advantages.
Onshore wind offers more than just sustainability.
Onshore wind power infrastructure is much less costly than offshore wind. It can pay back the investment in as little as two years and is sometimes half the price. It is also less expensive than solar or nuclear power, making it more affordable for consumers. Onshore wind farms are more cost-effective and produce more energy per location because they are larger.
There is less voltage drop off when there’s less distance between the consumers and the turbines.
Onshore wind turbines can be installed quickly and constructed in a matter of months. This is in contrast to other energy sources such as nuclear power stations which can take more than two decades to construct. Onshore wind turbines are also very easy to maintain once they are in use.
Environment has low impact
The physical impact of onshore wind farms is less than that of their surroundings. The site isn’t subject to toxic releases, can be farmed and has very little impact on wildlife.
Onshore wind has its disadvantages
Variable wind speeds
Onshore wind turbines are somewhat unpredictable in their speed. It can be difficult to achieve consistent power generation because wind speed and direction are different on the ground. Wind speed and direction must be closely monitored in order to plan for energy generation.
Production inconsistencies can also be caused by physical blockages of buildings or the surrounding landscape, such as hills and mountains. Onshore wind cannot produce energy all year and can only generate 2.5 MW of power, while offshore wind can achieve 3.6 MW.
Onshore turbines are not able to run all year, so they need fossil-fuel backups for when the wind is weak. We will need to use more fossil fuels as we rely on wind farms for our energy.
Visual and auditory factors
Wind farms that are located onshore can make the landscape look ugly. Wind turbines built on higher ground to generate more power may be an eyesore for nearby residents. Wind turbines can also be noisy, which can cause noise pollution in residential areas. A wind turbine can be compared to a lawnmower when it is close up.
The potential downsides of onshore wind are outweighed by the benefits it offers in terms of sustainable energy and other benefits.
What is offshore wind?
Offshore wind power is a term that refers to wind farms located in shallow open waters, such as the ocean. Inshore water areas, like lakes or fjords, can also be called offshore wind. Nearly all offshore wind farms are built in shallow waters with fixed-foundation wind generators. As technology improves, wind farms can be built in deeper water. The Global Wind Energy Council predicts that offshore wind will increase to more than 234 GW by 2030. This is primarily due to Asia-Pacific.
This video will give you an overview of offshore wind power.
What is the operation of offshore wind?
More energy produced
Offshore winds are often faster than those on land. Even small increases can result in large increases in energy production. To produce the same amount as an onshore turbine, you will need fewer turbines.
Consistency in wind direction
Offshore wind speeds are less variable and the wind direction is not as frequent, which means that offshore turbines produce more consistent power generation.
Visual impact is less important
The visual impact of offshore turbines is not as great as the ones on land. They are not disruptive to land use and don’t create any physical barriers that could interrupt wind flow. Offshore wind farms are therefore larger and can generate more energy with less impact than the ones onshore.
Offshore turbines are also taller than onshore ones, so they can generate more electricity and harness more wind energy.
Offshore wind’s disadvantages
It can be costly and time-consuming to create the infrastructure needed for offshore wind farms, particularly in deeper waters.
Maintenance and repairs
Turbines can be damaged by high winds and sea waves. They require more maintenance than their counterparts onshore. It is also more difficult to access offshore wind farms, so repairs can take longer.
Noise and visibility
Turbines’ underwater noises can have an adverse effect on marine life and fauna. Not all offshore wind farms are visible to the public. Local residents can find them annoying if they are located within 26 miles of their coastline.
Offshore wind farms have limited potential to bring about economic benefits for local communities, unlike onshore wind farm. Because the offices of the manufacturers are located inland, and are often far from the offshore site’s location, local jobs are not created and investments are not made.
Are you looking for a job in wind energy?
Both onshore and offshore wind have many advantages. This is due to a growing global electricity demand, and the urgent need for more sustainable energy sources. This field will require more workers than ever, with windfarm construction and engineering poised to experience exponential growth over the next decade.
Are you interested in being a part this innovative and exciting sector? Brunel assists job seekers in securing positions in almost 40 countries and recruiting for numerous Renewable Energy companies around the world. Check out these global opportunities if you are ready to move up in your career.