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The Future of Onshore Wind Energy

Wind power has become a major source of energy that has gained traction across the world. As the push for more sustainable energy practices and technologies increases, so does the importance of harnessing wind as a power source.

On a global scale, countries are in a race to build the infrastructure needed to capture wind energy. As a result, technology advancements are expected to significantly impact the costs associated with producing this type of renewable energy.

We will break down the future of wind power as a sustainable energy source and expand on its rise. Moreover, we will describe what onshore wind power is and the advantages and challenges associated with it.

Commonly Asked Questions

The Future of Wind-Powered Electricity for Power Generation

The future of wind-powered energy is bright. Experts estimate that technological advancements, among other factors, will help reduce the cost of wind energy between 17% to 35% by 2035.

Further, the amount of electricity generated by wind energy increased by 17% in 2021, which was 55% higher growth than in 2020. This kind of expansion is expected to continue, especially as 2021 was a record year for wind farm installations in the United States.

While onshore wind farms are more common than offshore wind farms, it’s expected that offshore wind system development will increase drastically over the coming years as more countries implement them.

We see the major impact coming from changes in turbine sizes for both onshore and offshore wind. The advancement in turbine size is attributed to the increase in rotor diameter and hub height.

  • Rotor diameter: This is the width of the circle made by the wind turbine’s blades. Currently, the average rotor diameter of an onshore wind turbine is 120 meters. However, by 2035, the diameter is expected to increase to 174 meters. Wind turbines can cover a wider area with a larger rotor diameter, increasing the capacity to capture more wind.
  • Hub height: This is how tall the wind turbine stands from the ground. The higher the hub height, the more wind exposure the turbine gets due to a higher altitude. In 2019, the average hub height of an onshore wind turbine was 89 meters. By 2035, this metric is estimated to increase to 130 meters, which will drastically improve wind energy capacity.

The result of such improvements in wind-powered electricity can have massive impacts on the global economy and overall energy prices. Some experts believe the increase in technological improvements can increase the number of jobs needed to maintain and operate wind turbines to over 6 million jobs worldwide by 2050.

onshore wind energy experts

Onshore vs. Offshore Wind

The major difference between onshore and offshore wind is the location in which the turbines are placed. Onshore wind turbines are on land, while offshore turbines are placed in a body of water. While both serve the same purpose, there are some other key differences between the two types of wind energy.

In particular, offshore wind turbines tend to encounter higher wind speeds, which leads to more energy being created. Moreover, onshore wind speeds have higher volatility, leading to greater uncertainty concerning the consistency of energy created by onshore wind turbines. Nevertheless, both types of wind power serve as important sources of renewable energy.

While offshore wind may provide a more efficient process of creating renewable energy, it comes with a high cost. The higher costs arise due to different factors such as corrosion, maintenance and other operating expenses associated with running an offshore wind turbine.

Onshore wind is a more cost-effective route when setting out to produce wind energy. Compared to offshore wind, turbines used in producing onshore wind energy are easier to install and transport, which inherently affects expenses. Additionally, it costs less to maintain onshore wind turbines due to technological advancements meant to reduce wear and tear.

Advantages of Onshore Wind Turbines

Onshore wind turbines come with several benefits. Explore some of these benefits below, separated by category.

Economic Benefits

Onshore wind turbines can offer some of the following economic benefits:

  • Job creation: Every onshore wind farm that’s built leads to job creation. As of 2021, the wind power sector employs around 120,000 Americans. That number will only continue to grow as wind power becomes more popular.
  • Cost reductions: Alongside solar power, wind power is one of the most cost-effective forms of energy to produce, which leads to more affordable electricity bills.
  • Inexpensive energy source: The cost to set up and maintain an onshore wind turbine comes at a lower expense compared to some other ways of producing energy. Due to the lower cost, onshore wind energy is a more affordable electricity source for consumers as well.
  • Quick installation: The time frame to build and get an onshore wind turbine running is significantly shorter than other renewable energy sources. Compared to offshore wind turbines, onshore wind projects cost less to install and take less time to install.

Environmental Benefits

Unlike nonrenewable energy sources, wind energy can offer many environmental benefits, such as:

  • Carbon emission reductions: As a clean, renewable energy source, wind power has a minimal environmental impact compared to fossil fuels. The amount of carbon emissions a turbine produces is considerably lower than that of most other energy sources.

Carbon emission reductions

  • Cleaner air quality: Wind turbines help improve air quality by emitting next to no pollution. By not releasing air pollutants like nitrogen oxide, wind turbines can have a positive impact on public health.
  • Lower impact of surrounding area: Since onshore wind farms are located in high-impact areas, some may think they are harmful to wildlife or habitats. However, onshore turbines do not release harmful toxins that can damage surrounding areas. Therefore, the land around the wind farm can remain habitable and safe.

Social Benefits

The creation of wind power can offer these social benefits:

  • Increased energy security: Because wind is an infinite resource, we can theoretically always use it to create power. This isn’t true for resources like coal or oil, which are finite resources that will eventually run out. Therefore, wind energy as a whole can create better energy security.
  • Community involvement: When onshore wind farms are built, people in the community can still use the surrounding land for farming and other purposes, making the creation of wind energy more community-focused. Additionally, communities can undertake their own wind farm projects to increase sustainable energy use in their towns and cities.

 

Challenges for Onshore Wind Energy

Despite its several advantages, onshore wind energy does come with some limitations. Some of these challenges include the following:

  • Volatile wind speeds: Since on-land wind speeds are inconsistent and hard to predict, the efficiency of onshore wind farms can vary. This issue can cause challenges with estimating the amount of power generation resulting from onshore wind sources.
  • Surrounding obstructions: Most onshore turbines are built away from man-made structures like buildings. However, natural landforms such as mountains and hills can cause varying wind speeds, resulting in an inconsistent generation of wind energy.
  • Noise pollution for surrounding communities: The amount of noise you hear from a wind turbine depends on your proximity to it. Those who live in surrounding communities may complain about the noise — plus the amount of space the turbine takes up and its visual impact.

Impact of Onshore Wind on Current Electricity Networks

Utility grids are increasingly incorporating wind power for more of their electricity generation. Onshore wind energy can be integrated into electrical grids to supplement existing power production.

Onshore wind is useful for improving existing electric grids’ reliability and resilience. Wind power can provide essential grid services such as voltage and frequency support — onshore wind operations can inject energy into the grid as needed to maintain grid health, for instance.

As we have discussed, one challenge associated with onshore wind is the randomness of wind velocities, which can affect the reliability and quality of electrical grids. Electrical grids already contend with a certain level of uncertainty arising from variable energy demand. Further uncertainty from wind sources could cause inconsistencies in energy production.

Electrical grid operators must determine how they can reliably integrate large quantities of wind power while maintaining high production and reliability. One promising option is using high-powered energy storage systems (ESS) to perform power smoothing and reduce variability in the wind power supply.

wind energy consultants

Learn More From TRC

At TRC, our expertise spans environmental and sustainable market solutions. We are dedicated to providing the best service to our customers for transforming the modern energy landscape. Our experience involves helping companies plan, permit and design onshore wind projects throughout the United States and beyond. If you’re looking to learn more about how our services can help your business, contact our power experts today.

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