Disadvantages & advantages of putting wind turbines out at sea

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Disadvantages & advantages of putting wind turbines out at sea
The question of where to locate wind farms is a controversial one. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Wind turbines are a form of alternative, clean and renewable energy. In contrast to the burning of fossil fuels, which pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, they harness the power of the wind to generate electricity without polluting the environment. Turbines can be built either on land or at sea; there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.

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Appearance

Even people who support the construction of wind farms may be unhappy when they are built nearby. In order to catch fast-moving air currents, wind turbines are very tall -- often up to or above 100 metres -- and can be seen for miles around. As a consequence, many people view them as eyesores. To minimise impact on built-up areas, wind farms are often put up in remote areas. Unfortunately, these are often areas of natural beauty, which some regard as being spoiled by wind farms. Off-shore wind farms attempt to limit this harm.

Signals and noise pollution

Onshore wind turbines can sometimes interfere with radar and television signals. Offshore wind farms have a less of an impact on signals, due to their location. In addition, when spinning, they emit a continuous low-level whir, which can contribute to noise pollution in an area. Placing them at sea removes this nuisance without causing additional harm to the landscape.

Wind speed

Wind turbines are reliant on the strength of the wind to turn their blades and generate electricity. When there is no wind, they don't generate. As a result, they need to be located in areas where wind speeds are high and consistent. Because winds are broken up by terrain features and buildings, both the velocity and consistency of winds at sea are greater. Wind turbines at sea thus produce energy at a higher rate than their land counterparts.

Expense

The advantages of offshore wind farms don't come without a price, however. The biggest disadvantage of wind farms at sea is simply that they are very expensive. The high cost of construction at sea, as well as the distance of these farms from the grid, means that electricity from farms at sea is nearly twice as expensive per megawatt-hour than electricity from wind farms on land.

Other disadvantages

In addition to the high cost of offshore wind farms, they may not have as many advantages over farms on land as proponents claim. Because of their great height, offshore wind farms are still often visible from land, meaning that they provoke similar outrage in those who feel their sea views are being disrupted. Wind farms at sea may also disrupt the signals of coastal radar installations.

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