- Published: 17 March 2022 17 March 2022
The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of my involvement in the development of wind power for generating electricity. During those 50 years, I did a lot of research on many aspects of implementing wind energy and wrote many research reports, brochures and books on the subject. Recently I have published my second book on offshore wind energy, Build Them at Sea, New Energy for the World, for a broad audience to introduce them to this important energy source for a sustainable future. I describe the policy, (technical) developments, construction, maintenance, and the vessels used and developed for this purpose. While writing, I concluded that in the coming years, we are going to make great steps: large wind turbines of 20MW, as high as the Eiffel Tower, new installation and maintenance vessels, drones for inspections, and robotised maintenance. But even more important is the development of floating turbines and the offshore production of hydrogen at sea. Competition for the most robust and cost-efficient floating design is ongoing and development of electrolysers is fast. With all of this progress, offshore wind energy is going to become the largest potential energy source.
By Chris Westra, the Netherlands
The wide oceans offer great potential for floating wind farms. They also offer locations where robust autonomous wind turbines can produce hydrogen in huge quantities. Underwater drones will collect the hydrogen produced by each turbine and deliver it to a collection station (hub) for discharge by ships. Developments in communication systems and control and sensor technology make it possible for such systems to function cost-effectively and autonomously.
In the North Sea, wind generation is rapidly expanding. Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK have great ambitions and are signing agreements to establish hubs for the development of an international offshore energy transport network. To bring these vast amounts of wind energy to shore as electricity, extensive power conversion and transmission equipment is necessary. The hubs will require huge systems both offshore and onshore with high financial and societal costs. Hydrogen is an alternative energy carrier and it fits into the Northwest European (gas) energy system, in which the Netherlands is embedded. Hydrogen is storable and provides flexibility in energy system integration with a high share of intermittent renewables. Furthermore, hydrogen is an important resource for industrial processes and synthetic fuels. Hydrogen is a promising alternative to bring wind energy to shore and distribute it onshore.
In my book, I describe opportunities and challenges of hydrogen generation on a multifunctional island. All these positive developments reduce costs and make renewables widely accessible.
Fifty years ago, I could not have imagined that wind energy would grow so fast. Present-day wind energy is safe, affordable, quick to build and, with floating structures and in combination with the production of hydrogen, endlessly applicable. It makes the discussion and application of nuclear energy unnecessary. Wind energy has beaten nuclear energy in its ‘simplicity’ and rapid development. Nuclear energy has become unaffordable, is still unsafe and is only feasible with state support and guarantees. Wind energy, together with solar energy, is now among the cheapest sources of energy. I have been able to contribute to its development and have enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed watching my children and grandchildren as they grow up. For posterity, we have no time to lose and we must continue. We now know what we are doing it all for. With massive floods in Germany, Belgium and China, forest fires in California, Russia and Southern Europe, the global climate crisis is becoming tragically felt by more and more people. We have to speed up the energy transition to avoid further catastrophes. We must work on insulating houses, electric transport, hydrogen for industry, solar cells on all roofs, wind turbines on land where possible and… ‘Build them at sea!’
The book Build Them at Sea, New Energy for the World (ISBN: 9789082300420), is available from: https://chriswestraconsulting.nl/shop/ or https://libris.nl