Size Matters. At least when it comes to energy. The larger the areas designated to produce energy, the more benefits come. The Hoover Dam or the Three Gorges, the largest power plant in the world, are proof of this. Now, that current of thought is being carried over to the wind industry, where turbines already reach 250 meters and huge wind farms are capable of feeding entire cities with electricity.
In an unprecedented project, Europe wants to revolutionize this field of energy. And nine countries have just signed an agreement to turn the North Sea into the “largest green power station in Europe.”
The project. A titanic mega wind farm in the middle of the sea. That is the idea that nine European countries have committed to carry out in order to multiply by eight the capacity of offshore wind farms in the North Sea before 2050. In other words, increase their combined offshore wind capacity to 120 GW by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050. The project will involve France, Luxembourg, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.
As? Building artificial islands that serve as bases of operations for thousands of these wind turbines and whose logistics make it possible to connect the center with the electrical networks of the countries that border the North Sea.
So that? In between The motivations for carrying out this project are to curb dependence on Russian gas and reduce the use of polluting fossil fuels. But, above all, to turn the region into a renewable energy engine. “When a wall blocks you, you have two options: continue heading towards it or build an alternative path. The war in Ukraine has been a wake-up call for Europe and our energy future,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo.
Other leaders also defend the opportunity to protect offshore wind farms from any sabotage or espionage that may occur, as happened with the Nord Stream pipeline last year.
A colossal investment. There is no doubt that this initiative is going to require enormous amounts of resources and capital. Indeed, the EU recently estimated that €800 billion would be needed to reach 300 GW by 2050, and wind power companies have said significant state funding will be essential.
That is why Emmanuel Macron, President of France, has stressed that it is important that the infrastructure is produced in Europe and that the jobs created are European. “We don’t want to repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past, deploying equipment made on the other side of the world,” he said.
The location, key. The site chosen for construction is known as Dogger Bank and is located about 100 km from the east coast of England. As some experts explain in this Ars Technica article, it is an ideal location for the project since its waters are shallow. It is a huge sandbar that is located about thirty meters below the surface of the water. At this depth it is not only economically viable to install offshore wind turbines, but also to build islands.
How does it work? Although wind farms will not be much different from what we already know, artificial “energy link islands” do represent a novelty never seen before. The idea is that these islands of up to six square kilometers have a port, landing strip, transmission infrastructure and all the necessary maintenance equipment, including accommodation for staff.
In this way, each island could facilitate approximately 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power. To give you an idea: right now the largest offshore wind farm in the world is the London Array and it has a maximum capacity of 0.63GW. “There is nothing like it anywhere in the world. We are taking offshore wind power to the next level,” Jeroen Brouwers, spokesman for the Dutch-German transmission system (TSO) TenneT, said in this article.
The tendency. Some experts suggest that offshore wind energy will be the main source of renewable energy production between 2030 and 2050, even above solar. That’s why Britain has started shoring up its inventory and already has 45 offshore wind farms in place producing 14GW, with plans to expand to 50GW by 2030. Germany, for its part, already has 30 producing 8GW, followed by Countries Netherlands with 2.8 GW and Denmark and Belgium, both with 2.3GW.
Imagen: Unsplash | North Sea Wind Power Hub
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