Above: Part of wind farm located in the North Sea, 28km off the coast of Belgium (Hans Hillewaert)

Wind power projects are popping up on land all across Canada. But did you know that wind farms are also being developed offshore? Energy companies around the globe are planning and building them in both oceans and lakes. Canada, a country surrounded by oceans and home to the Great Lakes, is well positioned to be a leader in offshore wind energy production.

Did you know? A turbine built offshore will produce more energy then the exact same turbine built on land.Offshore wind turbines transform kinetic energy from ocean and lake winds to electricity. The amount of electricity generated depends on the size of the turbines, the speed of the wind when it hits the turbines' blades, and the exact placement of the turbines.

Electricity generation from offshore wind turbines is normally greater than from land-based turbines. This is partly because offshore wind turbines are usually larger. Also, wind speeds are higher and wind flow is smoother over open water. When wind flows over land, its speed is slowed dramatically by friction as it passes over the ground and encounters objects such as plants and buildings. Faster wind speeds cause turbines blades to rotate more, and when larger blades rotate more, they capture more energy!

One of the major barriers to the development of offshore wind farms is the extremely high cost associated with building and maintaining turbines in water. This is particularly true of salty ocean water, which can cause corrosion and bacterial growth.

Scientists and engineers continue to study the best design and placement options for offshore wind farms. For example, a report by a group of researchers at Cornell University discusses a number of issues, including:

The design of the turbines’ floating bases The integration of offshore wind power with the electrical grid The impacts different sizes of wind farms can have on local environments, animals and landscapes These issues and others need to be dealt with before offshore wind farms become more economically feasible and can be implemented on a larger scale.

Did you know? Canada ranks ninth in the world in wind energy production.Ontario’s Trillium Power Wind 1 is currently the largest proposed offshore wind farm on the Great Lakes. It will be located on Lake Ontario, near Kingston, and consist of 138 turbines. The energy produced by Trillium Power Wind 1 will be enough to power 252,000 homes. That’s as many homes as there are in all of Newfoundland and Labrador!

As the green energy sector continues develops, offshore wind farms will continue to attract attention for their electricity generation potential. Hopefully, new research will also lead to more cost effective wind turbines, and address other issues that currently stand in the way of large-scale offshore energy production.


General news and science websites

Canada Ninth in Global Wind Energy Ranking (Richard Blackwell, Globe and Mail) Ontario to approve Great Lakes wind power (Tyler Hamilton, Toronto Star)

Government documents

Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2011 (Energy Information Administration, US Department of Energy)

Environmental websites and blogs

North American Offshore Wind Project Information (Offshorewind.net) Offshore Wind Energy Fact Sheet (Environmental and Energy Study Institute)

Industry publications

The Advantages and Challenges of Offshore Wind (Makani Power) Wind turbines need protecting against moisture (Cotes)

Chantelle Lafleur

Chantelle has a B.Sc in Life Science and a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication. For a short time, she worked with the Let's Talk Science Outreach team at the National Office and loved being able to share her passion with others. Chantelle seeks out any opportunity there is to share cool science with other and she loves learning about new research, medical advancements and environmental issues. 

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