A giant wind farm for Northern Europe
Solving the upcoming energy crisis is the most urgent problem facing us today. Fossil fuels are polluting the atmosphere and making the earth unliveable, and a transition to a clean energy future is imperative if we are to survive. There are many potential solutions, but the latest idea to come out of Northern Europe might be the most intriguing yet.
Some of the great energy generation projects of our time have been defined by their scale. The Three Gorges Dam and the Hoover Dam are both stunning examples of what humans can do when we get our act together. Now, following in that tradition, the North Sea Wind Power Hub (NSWPH) has been proposed by a consortium of European energy companies to supply power to 80 million people.
Wind power is hard to scale. Large onshore wind farms tend to run into opposition from the sort of short sighted people who value their view over their energy security. Large offshore windfarms can be very hard to maintain thanks to their remote location out at sea and the consequently tricky nature of both installation and maintenance.
Without a large scale, wind farms can struggle to really provide the amount of energy which could count as a game changer. For instance, the London array is the largest offshore wind facility in the world and supplies 0.63GW to the National Grid. Wind Europe estimates that all the wind power in Europe combined supplies 12.6GW of power, and that is following an unprecedented expansion of the industry in recent years.
We are in a race against time to diversify our energy supply, and therefore scale is needed - which leads us to the North Sea Wind Power Hub.
The NSWPH is a planned artificial island in the North Sea which will be home to thousands of wind turbines in one place. The North Sea is one of the windiest places on earth, and the winds are also reliable which makes it perfect for a giant wind farm.
The island will come equipped with an air strip and a dock which will allow easy access both for visitors and for the live-in crew of engineers which will work to maintain the turbines.
Each island will provide more than 30GW of energy to countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway and the UK, and will eventually be ‘daisy chained’ with a network of similar islands which will combine to provide more than 100GW of power to 80 million Europeans.
This plan represents a brand new development in the world of sustainable energy. As mentioned above, the main problem with wind power and other renewables has been an issue with scale. There simply is not the capacity to change the world yet. Developments like the NSWPH could be the way forward.
The NSWPH will be out of site of the mainland and will also avoid other vulnerable industries such as the fishing industry which supports so many people. It will also avoid military and shipping lanes which run close to coastal areas, and all the issues of maintenance which occur with deep sea wind farms will be avoided thanks to the size of the island allowing it to be a true base with transport connections rather than a short term stop off.
Developments such as the NSWPH and others such as the giant turbines being built at Burbo Bank off the coast of Liverpool, UK will act as proof of concept that renewable energy can be scaled up to a size which can change the game. Bigger power generation facilities mean lower energy costs. Lower energy costs will continue to undercut traditional fossil fuels and erode the economic case for polluting our atmosphere.
This is exactly the sort of ambitious strategic vision which we will need to save the global climate.