This special interest group is for professionals to connect and discuss all types of carbon-free power alternatives, including nuclear, renewable, tidal and more.


10 Ways Technology Makes Offshore Renewable Energy Possible

image credit: Image courtesy of Pexels
Jane Marsh's picture

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.

  • Member since 2020
  • 99 items added with 76,204 views
  • Jan 12, 2021

Have you heard about offshore renewable energy? This fossil fuel alternative harnesses wind power at sea. The turbines are located offshore to capture the ocean’s steady breezes as a way to create energy. It’s a noteworthy solution, especially for coastal states, which generate 80% of the electricity demand in America.

Here’s a look at how technology makes offshore renewable energy possible.

1. Scaling Large Enough Turbines

The most significant hurdle for offshore wind has been size. If you can’t build large enough turbines, you won’t effectively and efficiently capture energy. Fortunately, it’s become possible to scale turbines that fit those requirements.

Take General Electric’s Haliade-X turbine as an example. It has a rotor larger than two football fields put together. By itself, Haliade-X can power 12,000 homes. This technology has the potential to make offshore renewable energy more mainstream.

2. Measuring Capacity Factor

This point goes hand in hand with size. It’s no longer enough to measure capacity as a whole. There instead has been a focus on individual turbine capacity. The process becomes more economical when you can use fewer turbines with greater capacities to capture wind and generate power.

Teams use technology like underwater drones to ensure turbines operate correctly. This tactic helps industry leaders keep capacity their number one priority. It’s also helpful for research purposes.

3. Transporting via Ships and Barges

It’s hard to say where we’d be without ships and barges. Transportation makes offshore renewable energy possible. These vessels face fewer obstacles than trucks. Plus, they’re large enough to transport bigger turbines — and that’s essential for capacity.

4. Deploying Undersea Cables

How does the energy from turbines get to land? There’s a system of cables that runs across the ocean floor. These wires connect with grids that distribute power to buildings everywhere.

The invention of autonomous underwater vehicles makes undersea cable maintenance possible without direct human supervision.

5. Duplicating Individual Components

Reliability has to be a top priority. That’s what every industry leader strives for when they develop energy sources. You can’t have turbines work only half the time, right? By duplicating individual components inside turbines, they’re less likely to fail.

6. Navigating Deep Waters

Another challenge surrounding offshore renewable energy has been location. It takes extra work to construct a turbine at sea — especially when you consider how far out workers need to place them. That’s why creative solutions are necessary.

These answers currently include special equipment like boats with hydraulic arms and high-performance cranes.

7. Building Floating Platforms

You’d think the force from waves would knock turbines over. The seafloor isn’t exactly stable. That means we need innovation to realize offshore renewable energy’s full potential. Technology like turbines that float will help solve this issue.

8. Maximizing System Installation

We need to be able to produce several turbines at once. That goal might seem unrealistic when considering how large turbines need to be for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. There’s also a problem surrounding installations.

Innovations like floating platforms should help. We can also use 3D printing to completely conceptualize builds before they’re set in motion. This technology ensures that we implement the best working turbines from the beginning.

9. Inventing New Models

If we make more turbine models, we’ll be able to expand our reach. There are currently two kinds of turbines — horizontal-axis and vertical-axis turbines. These versions use different blade types to generate power. It’s even likely that turbines without any blades could provide another option.

10. Picking Lucrative Spots

How do researchers pick the right spots for turbines? Technology like hydrographic sonar survey methods helps professionals locate the most lucrative locations. They consider everything from distance to habitats to ensure they make the best choice possible.

These Innovations Help Offshore Renewable Energy Become Achievable

There’s no way around it. We wouldn’t be able to access offshore renewable energy without technology. From building turbines to transporting parts, it’s all thanks to various innovations that this type of energy has become more accessible.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 12, 2021

I have to imagine that some of the previous challenges with inspections and even maintenance of offshore platforms can also be somewhat addressed with drones in a much more affordable fashion today

Ansh Nasta's picture
Ansh Nasta on Jan 18, 2021

A common issue with integrating offshore wind power is that the grid at the coast wasn't developed to take in a lot of power, as it was usually the end of the line. However, with grid-enhancing technologies, you can solve this problem to a certain extent.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 18, 2021

What are the prime type of grid-enhancing techs you're talking about? I assume they have a better cost/analysis than building out new transmission infrastructure? 

Jane Marsh's picture
Thank Jane for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »