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Regardless of the location in which the wind is acquired, all wind turbines are utilized to harness the energy generated by moving air to generate electricity for future use.
Since the first wind turbine was constructed in the late 1800’s, traditional onshore turbines originally dominated the market, however, recent advancements in the technology have led this industry to look towards implementing offshore wind farms.
Pros and Cons of Offshore Wind Farms
Table 1 highlights some of the pros and cons associated with offshore wind farms.
Table 1. Pros and cons associated with offshore wind farms.
|More efficient than onshore wind farms, as wind speed and direction are more consistent at these locations.
||Expensive technology associated with transferring energy from the turbines
|Less turbines required to provide the same amount of electricity as onshore turbines
||Endure more wear and tear from wind and waves than onshore wind farms, thereby increasing operation and maintenance costs
|No risk of visual impact
||Harder to get to; longer wait times required to correct any potential problems
|No interference with land usage
||Currently limited in its ability to benefit local economies
|Protect sea life by restricting access to certain waters; increase artificial habitats
|Can be built to be much larger than onshore wind turbines; can therefore harness more energy1
|No physical restrictions in these locations to block wind flow
Pros and Cons of Onshore Wind Farms
Table 2 highlights some of the pros and cons associated with onshore wind farms.
Table 2. Pros and cons associated with onshore wind farms.
|Considerably less expensive than offshore wind turbines
||Turbines are optimized at a specific speed, which can limit their efficiency as a result of the unpredictable speed and direction of winds at these locations
|Cheapest form of renewable energy as compared to offshore wind farms, solar and nuclear power sources
||Public concern on the potential of turbines to:
- Endanger birds and/or bats
- Cause noise pollution2
- Be aesthetically displeasing
|Boosts local economies
||Cannot produce energy all year round due to the poor wind speed and/or physical blockage of the wind by buildings and/or hills
|Less emissions associated with the transportation of wind structures
|Less voltage drop between the windmill and the consumer as compared to offshore wind turbines
Making the Final Decision
The relatively new nature of the offshore wind energy industry contributes to the expensive costs associated with implementing these turbines.
Although offshore turbines are more prone wear and tear due to their location, current advancements in the technology of offshore turbines strengthen the tower to handle the loading forces of waves or ice flows.
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Additionally, pressurizing nacelles on these turbines are capable of preventing the corrosion of sea spray from harming the critical electrical components to further protect the turbine from potential damage3.
The steady speed and pressure of the winds at offshore locations are more reliable and efficient compared to onshore winds, therefore it is clearly beneficial for future developments in wind technology to look towards improving offshore turbines.
Overall, wind turbines, regardless of their location, are quick to install, especially as compared to other alternative energy sources such as nuclear power stations. Numerous external factors including the political, financial and geographical state of the particular area of the wind turbine must also be considered prior to initiating the construction.
Therefore, the decision on constructing either an onshore or offshore wind farm must be made on a case by case basis, in which each of these factors, combined with the individual pros and cons of both wind energy options, are taken into consideration.
As wind power becomes an increasingly popular renewable energy source, researchers expect that improvements in the technology will continue to improve the construction and engineering of these turbines to meet the global electricity usage needs.
Sources and Further Reading