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Rupert Posner writes for The Times on the prospects of offshore wind power

31 May 2012
Rupert Posner writes for The Times on the prospects of offshore wind power

Rupert Posner of The Climate Group, writes for The Times on the prospects of offshore wind power. 

If I had a pound for every time I heard someone say “renewable energy can’t be built without huge subsidies” or “we’re not seeing the cost reductions renewable energy promised”, I think I could probably have built an offshore wind farm. Well maybe not quite, but I certainly wouldn’t be too worried about the global financial crisis.

The reality is that renewable energy has shown massive cost reductions and technological improvements. Indeed, if we saw the same sorts of improvements in another sector, there would be huge levels of excitement. Actually, we have, and we do. But for some reason the message that renewable energy isn’t and can’t be competitive often seems to linger.

And offshore wind is no different. It suffers from criticism that it is too expensive, too remote and too difficult to connect to the electricity grid. Or we hear that, if the wind stops, it will cause blackouts and all sort of chaos.

But offshore wind power, like other renewable energy technologies, has shown some impressive developments. While relatively new, compared with onshore wind farms, offshore wind farms have now been with us more than two decades.

Since the Vindeby wind farm, with 11 small 450 kilowatt (kW) turbines, was built off the Danish coast in 1991, we’ve seen offshore turbine capacity grow markedly. In March, a huge 6.15 megawatt (MW) turbine, capable of delivering the demands of 6,000 people, was installed 28 kilometers off the Belgian port of Oostende. A 15MW turbine, twice the capacity of the largest onshore turbine currently installed, is in development.

However, it is not just the size of turbines that has advanced. The first full-scale, deep-water floating turbine of 2.3MW is operating in 220 meter-deep water off the Norwegian coast. And in 2007, a wind farm of two 5MW turbines was built in the North Sea, 22 kilometers from the Scottish coast, to test the viability of building commercial wind farms in deep water and some distance from the shore.

We very often can’t imagine what future technological improvements will bring or the speed at which they will come. So, undoubtedly offshore turbines will be more powerful and more efficient, and deliver electricity at lower cost than any of the current forecasts suggest.

And this is vital. We mustn’t forget that governments are supporting the development of clean energy technologies, like offshore wind, because we must swiftly wean ourselves off fossil fuel-based energy that causes climate change, and embrace a Clean Revolution.

Rupert's comment was published among those of four other leading offshore wind supporters: John Loughhead, Executive Director, UK Energy Research CentreMartin Lidegaard, Denmark’s Minister for Climate, Energy and Buildings, Philip Lowe, Director-general for Energy, European Commission and Michael Liebrich, Chief Executive, Bloomberg New Energy Finance. You can read all of their views in the full article on The Times.

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