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Offshore wind power: could it be the solution to covering all our energy needs?

We all know that offshore wind speeds are much higher than onshore wind speeds. But most of us don’t know just how much these significantly stronger winds can be translated into a much higher level of electricity generation. The study published by two researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science* delivers some answers to questions like these. ENGIE is already invested in major offshore wind projects to harness this considerable natural resource.

The research conducted by Anna Posner and Ken Caldeira reveals the extraordinarily impressive potential of offshore wind power: mid-ocean wind turbines can generate at least three times more energy than equivalent turbines installed on land.

  • Crédits : Nicolas Job - Copyright : Heos Marine

More effective at capturing energy

Ocean-based wind farms have the potential to meet the energy demand of our entire planet – at least during the winter months; in the summer, they could provide for all the electricity needs of Europe or even the USA.

Having compared the productivity of large-scale wind farms in Kansas with computer simulations of the type of wind farms that could be installed mid-ocean, the researchers conclude that the blades of offshore wind turbines - especially in the North Atlantic - impose less of a ‘brake’ on the power of the wind than the same turbine blades operating onshore.

Deep-water wind farms would also be able to generate energy from winds high in the atmosphere, whereas onshore wind farms can exploit only those wind resources close to the surface of the land. The calculations made by the researchers indicate that 3 million square kilometers of ocean would be needed to meet global energy needs.

ENGIE is contributing to the emergence of a long-term industry

ENGIE is already invested in many offshore wind power projects in Europe. The single goal of these investments is to facilitate the emergence and consolidation of a competitive wind energy industry.

The investments made by ENGIE reflect its commitment to ‘fixed’ offshore wind power projects, that is to say those anchored to the seabed. With its Dieppe – Le Tréport, Ile d’Yeu and Noirmoutier projects, the Group is working alongside renewables energy company EDPR and CDC Infrastructure as part of its contribution to developing a strong and sustainable French offshore wind energy industry. The Mermaid wind park project in the Belgian North Sea is another good example; due to come on-stream between now and 2020, its 27 to 41 wind turbines will generate a total of 250 megawatts (MW). That’s enough power to meet the annual electricity demand of 286,000 Belgian households, with the essential benefit of reducing CO2 emissions by around 367,000 metric tons per year. Lastly, the Group is also active in the UK, working alongside EDPR on the project to develop the Moray East wind park.

Floating wind turbines are installed much further offshore where the sea winds are much stronger and more reliable. This technique may still be in its infancy, but as the research reveals, its potential is very considerable, being estimated at 600 GW in Europe, compared with 250 GW for fixed offshore wind power**. ENGIE*** is therefore investing in a pilot wind farm with 3 or 4 turbines off the north coast of Portugal, with a combined generating capacity of 25 MW – this is the WindFloat Atlantic project, on which work is expected to begin by the end of 2018. The Group is also investing in France alongside EDPR and CDC in the Leucate offshore floating wind farm, where 4 turbines will generate 6 MW of electricity each. The Portuguese and French projects will make it possible to test wind speeds on two of France’s maritime coasts: the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

* Source: “Huge Energy Potential in Open Ocean Wind Farms in the North Atlantic”, Carnegie Institution for Science, octobre 2017

**IFP Energies nouvelles

*** In partnership with EDP Renewables, Mitsubishi Corp., Chiyoda Corp. and Repsol.

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