Truth demanded about offshore wind carbon construction costs

Posted: March 20, 2020 by oldbrew in Critique, Emissions, Energy, wind
Tags: ,

A senior academic reckons the 20 year design life of wind turbines is too short – “we should be doing better” – and means they don’t even qualify as infrastructure, and that offshore wind power is “ferociously costly and has a big carbon footprint”. He didn’t mention the intermittency and weather dependence, as they’re not fixable by humans.
– – –
True carbon costs of offshore wind are not being declared in order to make the solution seem more environmentally acceptable than it actually is, according to a leading academic.

Cambridge University senior teaching associate Jim Platts is a former partner at Gifford [now Ramboll] and has focused his academic career on manufacturing issues.

He told New Civil Engineer: “The concept of offshore wind is being sold as being environmentally friendly but the reality is that it is ferociously costly and has a big carbon footprint.”

Platts believes that the energy companies developing offshore wind farms are hiding full details about their carbon footprints and is calling on the sector to be more transparent about them.

NCE also understands that a number of people in the industry have raised concerns about the issue but have been silenced by their employers. NCE has approached industry leaders in the offshore wind energy sector for comment.

“People are becoming concerned with climate change but there is a need to focus on the numbers to make a difference,” he said. “Offshore wind turbines stick out of the water but there is lots of under the water too that people seem unaware of – there’s lots of steel and cable connections.

“Working out the carbon footprint is not simple but it is currently an invisible issue to the public.

“An analysis process is needed to look at the carbon footprint of offshore wind but all the energy companies need to use the same approach.

“Just looking at the wind turbine and the foundations will give you one number but adding in the grid connection will give you another number. We need to be able to accurately compare like with like.”

According to Platts, driving down the cost of such developments does not always create a positive result for the carbon footprint.

Projects such as the Oxford University-led Pile Soil Analysis (Pisa) project has helped refine design of monopile foundations, which are commonly used for UK offshore wind farms, and – along with other innovations – has resulted in the cost of new offshore wind developments falling by 50% since 2015.

Nonetheless, Platts said that the market five years ago was very unstable with each scheme treated as an individual project.

“The lack of continuity between projects resulted in high risks and increased costs as a result,” he said. Platts believes that the falling costs since 2015 are more to do with de-risking in the market than with design improvements.

Platts has called for a re-think of the support structures used for offshore wind turbines with a view to cutting the carbon cost.

“An average designer will tweak the design rather than rethink it completely,” he said. “The current monopile or suction jacket foundations are not an efficient way of taking bending moments into the ground.”

According to Platts, spreading loads is key. He suggested that Eiffel Tower or radio mast style structures with anchoring would create more robust solutions that have a lower carbon footprint.

He described the monopile solution as a “brute force approach”.

Platts said that floating foundations have huge potential, especially as offshore wind farms move into deeper water, but said that development is 10 years behind that of seabed mounted turbines.

Full article here.

  1. Adam Gallon says:

    Amazing eh?
    The owners keeping shtum about their “Carbon Footprint”.

  2. Stuart Brown says:

    Ignoring the fact we all hate wind power for a moment, the man has a point about the design of these things. On land a tall narrow tower is necessary so that the blades don’t hit it as the they turn into the wind.

    But is this true of a floating, anchored, offshore turbine? Yet currently they all look just the same as an onshore one. That may not be the best engineering solution.

  3. ivan says:

    They must also consider the salt air when calculating the life of the units. Unless they have used some rather expensive materials the life of each unit is more likely to be less than 15 years rather than 20 years.

    It ends up with very expensive units that produce electricity at extreme cost maybe some of the time while doing nothing to reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ the eco-loons appear to be concerned with when it suits them

  4. stpaulchuck says:

    a British wag came up with the label “subsidy farms” to describe these horrendous idiocies.

    Without politicians whose campaign coffers rely on “contributions” from companies like these, who then get laws passed and massive amounts of tax money allocated to them, the windmills would have never been more than a few test bed installations that would have totally demonstrated the negative cash flows and ROI’s when in competition with traditional power as well as the Big Lie that they reduce carbon output.

  5. oldbrew says:

    Report: Platts said that floating foundations have huge potential, especially as offshore wind farms move into deeper water, but said that development is 10 years behind that of seabed mounted turbines.
    – – –
    Wikipedia: Perdido is the deepest floating oil platform in the world at a water depth of about 2450 meters (8040 feet).

    A barge shipped the 22,000 tonne spar 13,200 kilometres (8,200 miles) from the Baltic Sea to the Gulf of Mexico. After floating the spar, it was towed to its final home above the Alaminos canyon 320 kilometres (120 miles) from the shore. The spar was rotated by the Balder from a horizontal to a vertical floating position by pumping water through hoses attached to the spar. It was then anchored by the Balder to piles in the seafloor. [bold added]

    They also put iron ore in with the water as extra ballast.

  6. MrGrimNasty says:

    My observation of Rampion seems to be that it is nearly always being serviced by at least one large ship, presumably burning marine diesel, not only that, they have generated more energy use by running tourist boat trips to their seascape eyesore windmill industrial complex – I doubt the latter is that significant in terms of energy balance, but I wonder how much running the massive ships involved in construction and maintenance is considered?

  7. oldbrew says:

    Total to develop floating wind projects in Celtic Sea with Simple Blue Energy
    Friday 20 March 2020

    The UK is thought to require at least 75GW of operating offshore wind capacity to reach the net zero target in 2050.
    – – –
    Floating wind potential across Europe, the US and Japan ‘is as high as 7,000GW’
    Thursday 12 March 2020

    GlobalData suggests floating offshore wind technologies can offer unique value as they can be deployed in deep waters far away from the coast where winds are stronger

  8. MrGrimNasty says:

    Do people understand the sheer size (cross section) of power cables from windfarms? The further wind farms are out to sea the more cable you need and the greater the transmission loss.
    And the sheer size of the base and the materials involved in a floating windmill?

    All that metal and other materials and manufacturing and ships represents an enormous upfront amount of energy.

    There’s nothing for free in life.

  9. hunterson7 says:

    The climate profiteers have no interest in the truth.
    And the climate extremists can’t handle the truth.

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