Pros and Cons of Offshore Wind Farms Along The Jersey Coast

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Offshore Wind Farms. By Jack Dreyer. Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017

What is an Offshore Wind Farm?

Offshore wind farms are large quantities of wind turbines that are cited offshore, as seen in Fig. 1. The only difference between offshore wind farms and “regular” wind turbines is that these wind farms lie over on bodies of water, either on stilts or on pontoons, rather than sit on land. Offshore wind farms have been installed in 11 countries across Europe, most heavily in the UK, Germany and Denmark. To date, 74 offshore wind farms have been installed with 8045 MW of wind capacity. [1]

What separates offshore wind farms from onshore wind farms? It is obvious that both are excellent combatants of climate change, as clean renewable energy is produced without harmful emissions like those of fossil fuels. What separates offshore from onshore is the wind potential. Wind is typically much stronger over bodies of water than over land, resulting in increased power potential and efficiency. One can also argue that as populations rise and land becomes more and more scarce, the placement of these enormous wind farms over the open ocean and out of the way has enormous value.

Despite its many advantages, offshore wind farms have some weighted drawbacks. The most superficial of these is that people are complaining of a violation of the natural beauty of locations. [2] Due to these complaints, there is pressure to place these farms far removed from shore so as to not be visible. This adds to the second drawback: maintenance costs.

The installation, operation, and maintenance costs are already much higher for offshore wind turbines, since more resources and infrastructures are needed to install and maintain a wind turbine at sea. [3] The sea is a much more hostile environment than land, leading to shortened turbine life cycles and a greater need for maintenance. In addition, the sea becomes a more hostile environment the farther out you go (to a certain extent), thus increasing this maintenance need/installation time.

An additional drawback is efficiency. Wind power generation can never be 100% efficient, as wind strength rises and falls sporadically. In order for these turbines to be the most successful, the range of wind speed in which they can operate needs to be expanded (to account for wind both too soft and too strong).

Not even taking into consideration the maintenance costs of these offshore wind farms, or the fact that its electricity production is unreliable (mother nature is indeed very unreliable), the initial cost of development far exceeds that of the turbines’ counterpart on land. Offshore wind farms are roughly twice as expensive as land-based ones, costing approximately $4,600 a kilowatt (while land-base systems cost around $2,400 a kilowatt). [4] This translates into a higher cost per joule compared to other sources, making this energy production less appealing to both the consumer and the producer.

Taking into consideration both the advantages and drawbacks of offshore wind farms, it is my opinion that this (current) technology can’t function on a large scale. As technology improves and drives down the cost of materials, the implementation of offshore wind farms on an enormous scale may become more feasible.

As a whole, I feel that green energy is incredibly important in the fight against climate change. However, the average consumer typically only looks to one thing: cost. As long as this wind energy is more expensive and unreliable than other sources, it will be very difficult for it to overtake the production of fossil fuels.

© Jack Dreyer. The author warrants that the work is the author’s own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.

[1] T. Hooper, N. Beaumont, and C. Hattam, “The Implications of Energy Systems For Ecosystem Services: A Detailed Case Study of offshore Wind,” Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 70, 230 (2017).

[2] D. Lloyd, “Wind Energy: Advantages and Disadvantages,” Physics 240, Stanford University, Fall 2014.

[3] C. A. Irawan et al., “Optimisation of Maintenance Routing and Scheduling For Offshore Wind Farms,” Eur. J. Oper. Res. 256, 76 (2017).

[4] S. Sherman, “Renewable Wind Debate,” Physics 240, Stanford University, Fall 2015.