Technologies Within Our Scope

Offshore Wind energy Technologies

Last updated: October 2020

Authors: Segen Estefen, Milad Shadman

Organizations: Ocean Structures and Submarine Engineering  (GERO), Ocean Engineering Department / COPPE – Federal University of Rio de Janeiro1

Wind bellows with greater intensity and has more stability at sea than on land. This results in greater energy generation; however, installation and maintenance costs increase with distance from the shore and depth. Other advantages of the offshore wind can be highlighted as the possibility of using larger wind turbines due to the possibility of shipping, the ability to build wind farms larger than on land and eventual costs reduction of terrestrial transmission infrastructure due to proximity to consumer centers. The main difference between onshore and offshore installations is the foundation of the wind turbine that can be bottom-mounted or floating. In general, bottom-mounted foundations, which by 2020 include more than 95% of the installed wind turbines around the world, are technically and economically feasible in water depths up to 60 m. Floating foundations have been demonstrated as viable solutions for larger water depths.

Figure 1 – Foundations used for offshore wind energy extraction [1]

By the end of 2019, offshore wind installed capacity was about 29.1 GW, which accounted for 5% of total global wind capacity [GWEC.NET]. Additionally, as reported by IRENA, 17.3 direct jobs are created per MW of generation capacity over the 25-year lifetime of an offshore wind project. 

Figure 2, presented by NREL, shows the annual average wind velocity of the coastal regions worldwide, inside each country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Propitious areas can be observed along Americas coastlines.       

Figure 2 – Annual average wind speed adjusted to 90-m hub height [2]

Technical potential estimations for offshore wind energy are between 4,000 to 37,000 TWh/yr considering the relatively shallow waters and near-shore applications. Nevertheless, higher technical potential is achievable considering deeper-water applications using floating wind turbines [1].

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[1] Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC, 2012. Cambridge Press

[2] Improved Offshore Wind Resource Assessment in Global Climate Stabilization Scenarios, NREL – Technical Report, 2012

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