The World's First Floating Wind Farm Just Opened in Scotland

Thursday, 19 October 2017 - 7:50PM
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Earth
Thursday, 19 October 2017 - 7:50PM
The World's First Floating Wind Farm Just Opened in Scotland
YouTube/Statoil
At this point, there's really no excuse for burning fossil fuels for energy. Yes, it's cheaper than setting up all new renewable energy power plants, but in terms of environmental protection, it's a no-brainer for anyone who enjoys life above sea level. If clean energy keeps our home planet from overheating, it should ideally be a welcome inclusion in our daily lives.

In spite of the inherent benefits of not all dying in a self-inflicted environmental disaster, there are those who complain about the downsides of using renewable energy sources. Scottish environmentalists have been fighting an ongoing battle with locals for years over wind farms, with masses of large white wind turbines spinning on the Highlands in order to collect electricity.

Those opposed to wind farming have two major complaints: firstly, that turbines are ugly, and secondly, that they're horribly noisy. These metal monstrosities, it's argued, spoil the natural beauty of the Highlands and take the fun out of frolicking with nature, as well as potentially spooking the local animals that graze on the countryside.

Finally, though, the Scottish government has found a comfortable solution that appeases everybody. What if, instead of on the Highlands, the turbines were somewhere off-shore, far away from anyone's actual gaze? Say hello to the Hywind Project, a large construct of floating, sea-faring wind turbines that now live fifteen miles off the coast of the Aberdeenshire town of Peterhead.



The Hywind Project, part of Scotland's current plan to be completely carbon neutral by 2020, is expected to completely fuel as many as 20,000 homes in the surrounding area, with similar installations soon to provide power to 175,000 homes. This mirrors similar plans by cities like San Francisco, which are also looking to reduce their carbon footprint and make a genuine difference to the state of the planet's climate.

While the turbines are technically floating, the majority of their large 830 feet of height is submerged under water, with only 256 feet poking up above the surface. Each 1323 ton structure is secured to the sea bed with an enormous length of sturdy chain, to ensure that none of these things break lose and cause havoc.

The question is often raised as to just how efficient wind energy is, and whether large, initially expensive turbines of this nature eventually pay for themselves, or whether they're just a huge money sink that can never hope to make the efficiency of a more traditional source of power.

Various academic papers tend to bounce around claiming that due to their small capacity, wind power can't hope to challenge coal or natural gas as a form of energy production, although it is worth bearing in mind that there are certain bodies and organizations out in the world with access to the money to conduct ostensibly academic experiments who may have a vested interest in making wind power sound unappealing.

Certainly some reports of the low capacity of wind power over other forms of energy production have since been proven to contain misleading or downright obsolete data on how much energy a wind farm can produce, and considering the low level of maintenance that the Hywind Project will require, it makes sense from a purely financial perspective for Scotland to want to rely on cheap, free energy, regardless of the inherent benefits to the environment.

This is obviously a touchy subject for many who argue on either side of the ecological debate, but one thing's certain: Scotland has found a way to generate clean energy that won't involve keeping the Highland sheep up at night. Whether we now start getting noise complaints from dolphins remains to be seen.
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