Offshore Wind Energy Transport
More energy from the sun hits Earth in one hour than all the energy consumed on our planet in an entire year. Water covers approximately 70 percent of our world’s surface. The greatest opportunity to harness the sun’s renewable energy exists with those technologies that are and will be the best enablers of sea-based solar energy production. Wind is produced by the uneven heating of the earth’s surface by the sun and is solar energy. Wind is currently the optimal potential energy by which to harness the Earth’s solar power due to the fact that wind turbines have a lower cost-per-kilowatt than solar panels. The vision is to make sea-based wind power production economically viable on a mass scale.
In order to economically and efficiently harvest wind energy from the vast expanses of the oceans and seas, we must develop technologies that can capture and deliver it over distances that cannot be economically and efficiently achieved with buried or covered electricity transmission cables. Hence, we must capture the energy, and transform it into a readily transportable form on-site; whereby it can then be transported, delivered and converted to electricity at an optimal location for delivery to consumers.
Amazingly, the capture and conversion of wind energy into a readily transportable form can be accomplished by integrating existing technologies into a system-of-systems for this purpose. The development of new technologies will increase the viability of mass scale offshore wind energy production, but the core capabilities consist of mature and readily available technologies.
Currently, the best way to use existing technologies to capture and convert wind energy at sea into a useable and transportable form of energy is to convert the electric output from wind turbines into hydrogen (H2) gas using electrolysis. The H2 gas can then be transferred into a lighter than air envelope (blimp) for transport to a station at or near shore for download/transfer to a fuel cell power plant, where the H2 gas can then be converted to useable electricity.
Future technology developments to further advance offshore wind energy production will include advanced transport vessels and seabased platforms, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) at-sea production plants, and the development of a radial turbine blade system that is designed to operate on H2O2 fuel. The radial turbine blade system will provide an economical and efficient means of converting H2O2 into mechanical energy for the purpose of driving an electric generator to make electricity, thus creating a new type of power plant. This will be an important development because H2O2 is more economically and safely transportable by means of ground transportation to locations far from the shore than H2 gas.
We can achieve mass scale offshore wind power production, capture and delivery in the near future and open up the “other” 70% of the earth for green energy production. However, the Department of Energy (DoE) must partner with the private sector in the development of H2 gas and H2O2 at-sea conversion/production projects to achieve this vision. The DoE has already conducted successful wind to H2 gas conversion and storage projects. A company (or companies) with a vision must partner with the DoE to transform these prior advances and lessons learned into a sea-based capability to support the more rapid development and implementation of this concept.
Calculations show that approximately 35 megawatt-hours of fuel cell electricity output can be delivered in a single 50 foot radius blimp filled with H2 gas. This is enough electricity to power approximately 35,000 homes for one hour.
To further the environmental benefits of the above concepts, offshore wind turbines can be installed on abandoned oil platforms to repurpose the oil platforms for the production of renewable energy while also reducing the wind turbine installation costs. There are currently over 28,000 abandoned oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico alone. These overarching business concepts can create near-term profitability and long term growth for a company with the vision to achieve seabased wind power production on a mass scale. We can be green if we develop the technologies that will make us a green world. The right company (or companies) and the DoE should take action based on the above facts and make the realization of this vision a priority.