Wind: Off-Shore Possibilities

What causes wind?

Wind is mostly a function of air moving from one place to another, usually based on differences in temperature. At the shore, the border between land and water, there's usually a change in temperature. Land tends to heat and cool faster - meaning it changes more over the course of the day - while water retains heat better but requires more energy (meaning time in the sun) to heat up in the first place.

The result: there's lots of wind where the land meets the water. And it's more regular.

The natural conclusion: let's build wind power off-shore! The basic idea is to sink a big pole into underwater bedrock and stick a turbine on the top, then build a hundred more and call it a wind farm.

There are a ton of benefits and some drawbacks.

In general, it's easier to find space at sea to build wind power than at land - and it's much, much easier to make sure there's no one living within two miles of them (where noise can become an issue). That alone reduces many issues with wind power and their placement among human society.

Also, wind turbines at sea can be built bigger - and therefore produce more energy - because they don't have to be driven around on trucks.

So why don't we do it more often?

Well, there are dangers to aquatic birds - though, to be fair, there is with land-based wind power and most other forms of energy production - as well as the possibilities of navigational problems (though the US Coast Guard thinks that in the case of the now-approved wind farm off Cape Cod that they can solve that). Also, you can see them from shore up to 20 miles away - and it's hard to build them even that far out.

This is what the Cape Cod wind farm will look like from shore:

Up to you, dear readers, to decide whether that would be a problem for you or not. (Although, remember to compare that image to the visuals of other forms of energy production.)

The biggest problem, though, is simple economics. First, they require more maintenance - storms and salt take their toll - and second, the energy is a little harder to transmit, because it has to go underwater.

Is off-shore wind power a climate solution? The answer, as is usual with the world, lies in the middle - they're not bad when you can build them without causing too many major problems, but there are other forms of wind power, too.

1 comment:

  1. What about the damage to the sea life that the wind farms would be built upon?

    Also, I'm personally pretty excited about the potential of the Maglev wind turbines. Still in development stages, but would take up a lot less space to generate the same amount of energy more efficiently, on land or offshore.