It’s not fair to compare rusty fan-blade windmills on a farm to the high-tech behemoths of today’s wind energy business. Over the last few years, wind turbines have grown bigger and bigger, capturing more wind potential, offering more advanced meteorological readings, automation and connection to the energy grid. As the son of a wind energy developer, I’ve been in a geeky position to notice advancements in the technology.
This 7 Megawatt turbine from Vestas is the latest in offshore wind energy offerings. It’s Ridiculously large. At first glance, it looks ordinary, but meant for strong ocean winds deep in the North Sea, this turbine is a gargantuan structure by itself. And an offshore wind ‘farm’ would employ many of them. How large? A 538ft. diameter sweep! So large each wind turbine has it’s own helicopter pad, which still would dwarf any helicopter that landed on it. Better illustrated by this overly-dramatic, high-action “trailer” that Vestas made for the V164 turbine.
I certainly think this is the kind of “big” that we can embrace as a civilization. Unlike the realm of huge cars or pointlessly large houses, giant clean-tech creations are vital to combat the mess we as humans are facing (or refusing to face).
The great potential of offshore wind needs to be capitalized in the United States, as other countries have so successfully done. Living far out to sea where the winds are constant and strong, these giant energy-capturing turbines are not visible to shore, making ‘visibility’ issues a non-starter.
It remains to be seen whether the government in the United States has the courage to address clean energy goals in a large way. The country’s first large offshore wind farm has been held up in court for a decade, and Republican answers of increased drilling will most certainly slow down progress. However, wind energy on the whole is a fast-growing industry in the US.
|Number of States with Utility-Scale Wind Installations, 2010:||38|
|Number of States with over 1,000 MW of Wind Installations, 2010:||14|
|U.S. Wind Resource Potential, Onshore (Source: NREL):||10,400,000 MW|
|U.S. Wind Resource Potential, Offshore (Source: NREL):||4,150,000 MW|