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Offshore wind power – Advantages and disadvantages

Many energy experts agree that the majority of future wind energy projects will go offshore, and EU has already started huge offshore wind power expansion, with China not far behind while United States is seriously considering this clean energy option. Offshore wind energy projects are not entirely similar to wind energy projects on land when it comes to advantages and disadvantages, and through this article I will try to explain to you their main differences.

Offshore wind energy projects have one big advantage over the wind energy projects on land, namely more frequent and more powerful winds. Some recent studies have showed that offshore winds blow 40 percent more often offshore than on land which means that offshore wind farms can relatively easy outpace wind projects on land in terms of installed capacity.

The main disadvantage of offshore wind energy farms are high construction costs. Offshore wind energy projects need to be powerfully built in order to withstand rough weather conditions; the costs of installing an offshore wind turbine were around $5 million per megawatt of capacity in 2010, while installing turbine on land has installation costs between $2-2.5 million per megawatt of capacity. Because of this offshore wind farms need to be built large, or otherwise they are not economically viable.

Offshore wind energy market despite is constantly growing despite the high construction costs of new offshore wind energy projects. Some recent studies have calculated that that return on investments for offshore developments can be as high as 18 percent which gives some certainty to investors, especially in combination with incentives and other tax benefits. In fact, at global level, investments in offshore wind energy sector grew by 30% in 2010 compared to the 2009.

Offshore wind technologies are still in the early phase of the development, and further technological advances should make future offshore wind energy projects much more commercially viable compared to the current offshore wind farms.

Offshore wind farms have significantly smaller negative impact on aesthetics of the landscape compared to wind farms on land because most offshore wind farms are not visible (or barely visible) from shore. From the environmental point of view, when constructing offshore wind farms constructors have to make sure not to disturb nearby marine ecosystems too much. The constructors also must be careful not to build offshore wind farms in areas where they would interfere with shipping lanes, or in fishing areas.

Another advantage that offshore wind energy projects have over wind energy projects on land is transport. The transport of big wind turbine components such as tower sections, nacelles, and blades is significantly easier with ships as they can handle large cargo more easily than trucks or trains, and there is no traffic jam on sea like there is on land.

Offshore wind energy is clean, renewable energy source that can reduce the need for fossil fuels, and by doing so help tackle climate change and air pollution.

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