Humans have harnessed the power of wind for thousands of years whether through sails or windmills. The offshore wind industry traces its modern roots to 10 wind turbines just off the Denmark Coast in 1991. In the 30 years since, countries around the world have built tens of thousands of turbines in over 160 offshore wind projects, generating 32,000 MW of power.
While land-based wind turbines are now a common sight across the United States, they have important differences from offshore wind turbines that require a different industry to support development. Modern offshore wind turbines and blades can reach heights over 800 feet and require large components that can only be transported by water. This requires the constant transport of supplies and materials by sea. The actual installation of an offshore wind project is far more complex than a land wind project. Offshore wind projects require specialized equipment, vessels, training and extensive stakeholder engagement and environmental review. Projects can take years, even up to a decade to complete because of the complexity of building an offshore wind project.
Although construction can be challenging, offshore wind projects can produce much more power than their land-based predecessors. Offshore wind turbines capture oceanic wind, which blows more powerfully and consistently than on land, increasing a turbine’s power output and reliability. This effect is further enhanced by a turbine’s blade length, which sweeps over a much larger area and captures more wind. Offshore wind can be an attractive power resource to states and countries that lack available land to develop solar or land-based wind power but have good access to areas offshore from their coasts.