Offshore wind

Critical driving force towards decarbonisation

Offshore wind uses cutting-edge technology to harness the energy of the wind out at sea to power our homes and businesses.  
Land-locked turbines only tap into a small fraction of the wind available. Offshore wind turbines are instead installed in bodies of water, typically in the ocean, where wind power is far greater, more stable, and constant. Offshore wind farming, therefore, is far more energy efficient and has far less of a physical impact on the surrounding areas than onshore. The offshore wind sector is expected to increase tenfold as countries strive to reach and exceed their climate goals by 2030. 
Nonetheless, both onshore and offshore wind farming are critical for driving our efforts towards decarbonisation. Amid a changing global climate and the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels, renewable resources have become the answer to our future energy needs. 

Lee Hudson

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How offshore wind energy is propelling a zero-emissions future

One propellor rotation of the most powerful offshore wind turbine is enough to power an average home for 24 hours. But wind turbines are very rarely built as free-standing structures. They are instead clustered together to create wind farms that generate bulk electrical power. A generator then converts this mechanical energy into electricity and is typically fed into an offshore substation.

Buried below offshore wind farms, subsea cabling is a crucial component of this process. There are two types of cables that are required to transport this electricity to land:

  • Inter-array cables: These cables are used to connect wind turbines to one another to form what’s called a collection circuit that feeds the offshore substation.
  • Export cables: These are cables that transport electricity from the offshore substation to the onshore network. Once transported into the onshore substation, the power is then fed into our energy grids.

The installation of offshore farms can be more expensive than its onshore counterparts. However, offshore wind farms offset their cost of installation only a few years after they have been installed and are designed to last for around 20-30 years.

Currently, most offshore wind farms are installed in relatively shallow waters of up to 50-60 meters (160-200 ft). The installation and maintenance of offshore wind farms becomes more complicated and expensive the further from shore the wind power plant is constructed. With 80% of offshore wind power found in deeper waters, it is evident that there is a great deal of untapped potential. But next-generation technology is unlocking the sector’s full potential.

Bringing offshore wind farming to new waters

Floating offshore wind farming offers enormous potential. These wind facilities will enable the industry to reach its full potential - allowing us to reach beyond the shallow waters where seabed-fixed turbines currently operate. Instead of its tower being fixed to the seabed, floating wind turbines sit on a structure that is tethered to the seabed by mooring lines. They operate the same as fixed-seabed turbines but are located in much deeper waters where wind currents are much stronger and more reliable.

Floating offshore wind farming is in the early stages of development. Fortunately, the floating offshore wind sector has seen climate change initiatives and increased funding over the past few years. Increased funding is paving the way for more efficient planning and execution of these farms. It is entirely feasible that if we combine new technologies, infrastructure, and supply chains, this new feat of engineering could be the future of our energy systems.

Alongside opening up a host of opportunities, installing wind facilities further out to sea will bring the market to new geographical locations with deeper coastal waters, such as Japan and the US.

US’ role in the offshore wind sector

To mitigate climate change, many countries around the globe are investing in offshore wind to restructure their power generation mix. Over the past few years, offshore wind farming has flourished in the US, driven by its success in Europe.   
Block Island Wind Farm, the US’ first commercial offshore wind farm in Rhode Island, has marked the beginning of a new era in the country’s green energy revolution. In fact, the country is right on track to hit the Biden Administration’s target of 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030.  With Gibson Watts’ new office in Providence, Rhode Island, we can fully commit to delivering our clients the best talent in the offshore wind industry. 

Building our future energy system

Floating offshore wind is providing clean, reliable power, and creating green jobs that are contributing to the clean energy transition. There are a variety of opportunities and career options available in this rapidly expanding, innovative, and fascinating field. The offshore wind industry presents incredible job opportunities, with up to 77,000 local, highly-skilled jobs expected to be created in the US in the next few years, pushing the green revolution even further. Jobs in offshore wind include but aren’t limited to manufacturing, engineering, data analysis, and construction.