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You're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat...Engineering Challenges of Increasingly Large Wind Turbines

image credit: Bloomberg

Offshore wind turbines are inherently large and much bigger engineering asks because the open water and higher wind speeds allow wind energy technicians to take advantage of increased efficiency. While offshore wind is not without its critics, whether from NIMBY-type arguments about what they might do to ocean views or from concerns about the environmental and ecological impacts they might have that we don't yet well understand, one practical reality is that the engineering challenges of larger wind turbines (and growing) are not negligible. 

This review of the situation for large wind turbines from Bloomberg highlights that reality especially well. In fact, only about a dozen ships in the world are of the size capable to install a wind turbine today, and while that causes a natural shortage it says nothing about the challenges of not knowing how big future boats will have to be to meet the demand of larger and larger turbine blades.

Offshore Wind Will Need Bigger Boats

The sheer engineering rigor and massive scale needed in offshore wind turbines is not a common part of the discussion, but this article provides a fascinating insight into just how much goes into these construction projects and how the challenges of bigger are not at the forefront of clean energy advocates as they continue to push for bigger and better. 

Is there precedent for this type of engineering challenge in the utility world previously? Will the restriction on ship size and availability create a bottleneck in the wind energy industry? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Discussions

John Simonelli's picture
John Simonelli on Jun 3, 2019 3:15 pm GMT

While I agree it does present a new logistical challenge to overcome, the reality is these types of challenges have never stopped the industry before.  Historically look back, as transformers got larger and larger (765kV 1100MVA units), the industry overcame the transportation challenges they presented.  As marine cables especially for HVDC projects got larger and large, new cable laying technology (hydro plowing) and the ships to do it were built.  In the end it will be a small bump in the road for the utility industry.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 3, 2019 11:33 pm GMT

You bring up a great point, John. Challenges have never stopped the innovators from innovating, and I have no doubt this will be another one of those instances in the long list of utiliyty successes. 

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