Blog Post

Picking the Sweet Spot for Offshore Wind

Sure, offshore wind is more expensive than that captured on land, but it’s often windier out there on the water, which means more power and more money generated from selling it. Predicting where the wind will grow stronger over time would be a neat trick to have, particularly when building offshore wind farms. And as the Guardian notes, the UK’s Atmos Consulting might be able to help.

The company has created software that looks over a 22-year archive of satellite images from NASA that measure wind strength based on the size of small ripples on the surface of the ocean’s waters. Atmos has already pinpointed the southern part of the North Sea as a site ripe for offshore wind farms, as the site has been getting windier since 1997. If the trend continues, says Atmos, in another decade wind farms planned for the area could have double the power generation of those located further north.

More accurate wind forecasting could be just what the struggling UK offshore wind industry needs. The 1-gigawatt London Array project is set to be located in the Thames Estuary, the area off the southeast coast where the River Thames meets the North Sea. If the winds are getting stronger there, it would make the London Array a much better financial bet for its investors, who seem to be getting cold feet in these tough economic times.

In the U.S., better wind information could go a long way toward convincing investors and legislators to support offshore wind. And Atmos isn’t the only game in the wind-mapping business — companies such as 3Tier are also giving a helping hand to wind and other renewables producers when it comes to picking the best spots for their projects. If wind power developers can show that an offshore wind project will be able to generate more energy as time goes on because the location will get stronger gusts, the resistance to the higher price tag could drop (although Sen. Ted Kennedy still might not like the way it looks).