Renewable energy technology - and in particular the offshore wind industry - has gathered vast momentum over the past few years. One of the most important innovations recently has been the successful deployment of floating wind turbines off the coast of Scotland, which have been producing energy since October last year.
The Hywind Scotland project could have a serious positive impact on the sector, with the technology for floating turbines enabling many more wind farms to be created in deeper waters.
However, there needs to be continued research into the development of ever larger wind turbines, one expert has stressed.
Clean Technica reported on a speech given recently by the CEO of WindEurope - the continent’s wind energy trade body. Giles Dickson spoke to representatives from the European Commission about the sector and what it requires to continue developing.
He stressed that developing larger offshore wind turbines is essential if the sector is to continue to reduce the cost of producing energy from this resource.
What’s more, by conducting research into this area and channeling resources into the development of larger turbines, firms working on the offshore wind sector will be able to “unleash” the offshore wind energy potential in Europe, which will in turn help the EU to meet its energy and climate objectives.
Mr Dickson explained that the industry is aiming to create 13MW to 15MW wind turbines - at the moment many offshore wind farms utilise 8MW wind turbines, although the deployment of 12MW turbines is on the horizon.
Getting turbines to reach these larger scales is going to take innovative design and thinking, he added.
“We need to mobilise the European research capacity of universities and public research institutes to help industry develop competitive technology and keep our edge over China, the US and India,” he asserted.
Of course, changes in technology are going to mean changes in working practices for those involved in the installation and maintenance of offshore wind turbines. While technology - such as drones - is likely to play a part, there will still need to be people involved in the process.
Any firm operating in the offshore wind sector needs to ensure that any employee has undertaken their GWO working at heights course before they carry out any work in the field. This can be an inhospitable environment, so it’s vital that they understand the risks and industry best practices, as well as how to mitigate them.
The UK has already invested heavily into further offshore wind development, with a new study launched in January to explore the benefits of installing more offshore wind turbines, such as those that make up the Hywind Scotland project.
This study will examine the impact that such developments could have on a number of levels, not only environmental, but also how relying more on offshore wind energy could affect policy decisions and the country’s economy.
In Scotland and the rest of the UK, the hope is that investing more heavily in this technology could boost the economy in a number of ways, through job creation, as well as developing expertise in this niche area that can put the country at the forefront of this emerging sector.