A report conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has concluded that using wind turbines in the world’s best offshore sites has the potential to provide more electricity than what the current global electricity demand is.
The report included a detailed study of all coastlines around the world and found that even if wind farms are only located in shallow waters, in windy areas near the shore then global demand for electricity can still be met.
The International Energy Agency has stated that if wind farms were built at every useable site which is within 37 miles (60 km) of the coast, and in locations where the coastal waters are no deeper than 197 ft (60 metres), they could produce 36000 terawatt hours of renewable electricity every year. This is just over 1.5 times that of the annual global demand which is currently at 23000 terawatt hours each year.
At this moment in time, offshore wind power only produces 0.3% of all global power generation (69 terawatt hours). This report however proves that this method of renewable energy has vast potential to power the whole planet.
The offshore wind power industry is predicted to grow 15 times over in the next 20 years. This will turn offshore wind power into an industry worth an estimated £780 billion ($1 trillion), potentially proving to be the next major energy revolution.
The International Energy Agency has also revealed that global supplies of renewable energy are increasing faster than expected, with the potential to expand by 50 percent over the next 5 years. This is mainly due to a further increased demand for solar power.
Offshore power plants are much more advanced technologically now which has also led to this unexpected increase in renewable potential. New technological breakthroughs and reduced costs mean that offshore wind power plants are a much more viable and easy option to produce electricity, this means offshore wind turbines can now be made even taller and new floating installations allow for the wind turbines to be located further from the coast, in deeper waters.
In the EU, the offshore wind capacity has been predicted to increase from just below 20 gigawatts currently to almost 130 gigawatts by the year 2040, with the potential to go on to 180 gigawatts. On the other hand, in China an even more rapid growth is expected. Currently China only produces 4 gigawatts from offshore wind farms, however in 2040 this could rise to 110 gigawatts with the potential to go on to 170 gigawatts.
There are many other advantages that also come from using offshore wind power to produce electricity. The excess electricity that is produced can be to help produce hydrogen from water. This hydrogen can be used instead of fossil fuels that are currently in use, further decreasing the rate of climate change.
The UK government is already backing such projects, such as the ‘green hydrogen’ project in the North Sea. Here is where sea water is being turned into hydrogen and it is using the electricity powered by the large offshore wind farms to produce the hydrogen and power the project. The hydrogen gas can then be pumped back to shore to be used in heating and cooking in homes all around the country. Most importantly, this is a gas that burns cleanly and will not add to climate change.
This shows the great potential that offshore wind farms bring to the debate in the need for a reliable renewable energy source. The farms offer large amounts of benefits in producing electricity, not to mention the extra jobs they would create.