Offshore windfarms may be able to also capture carbon

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Offshore wind power is the generation of electricity through wind farms in bodies of water, usually the sea. These types of windfarms are more efficient than those on land due to the higher wind speeds offshore.

As of 2020, the total worldwide offshore wind power capacity was 35.3 GW, with the UK, China, and Germany accounting for over 75% of this.

The UK has undoubtedly lead the charge in this field, with the ‘Hornsea Project One’ located off the Yorkshire coast being the largest windfarm in the world, consisting of 174 wind turbines.

Furthermore, wind power contributed to 24.8% of UK electricity in 2020, the largest of any G7 nation, making it the UK’s largest source of renewable energy.

PM Boris Johnson has also promised to power every home with offshore wind by 2030.

The Biden administration could see a rise to U.S. windfarms

As part of Biden’s climate target, he is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the United States to net zero by 2050.

Biden at COP26

The USA have one of the worst carbon footprints in the world, placed just 2nd behind China as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2021.

Under Trump, the United States left the Paris Agreement in 2020 despite being one of the most accountable nations. Furthermore, Trumps corporate stance allowed for corporations to have more free will over environmental degradation in their production processes.

No doubt, however, Biden’s opposing stance as President has put America off on a better foot. He re-entered the United States into The Paris Agreement on his first day in office, and has much more progressive views on America’s contribution to climate change worldwide.

New offshore windfarms in the United States

In fact, by 2030 the Biden administration is aiming to have 30 GW of offshore wind energy in use, which is estimated to be enough to power 10 million homes.

According to this article, developers are planning to build the United States’ ‘first federally approved utility-scale offshore windfarm off the coast of Massachusetts and New York.

This new project will consist of 74 turbines which could power 470,000 homes.

More than a dozen other projects like this are awaiting approval along the East coast.

Adapting New offshore windfarms to also capture carbon from the air

David Goldberg, a marine geophysicist, has been exploring the potential for pairing wind turbines with carbon capture technology. If such technology is developed, it could be applied to upcoming projects in the United States, as well as others worldwide.

According to Goldberg, research groups are out there already testing direct air capture devices which can pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.

The direct air capture plants owned by Climeworks, a Swiss company.

The systems use filters of liquid solutions that capture carbon dioxide from air blown across them. Once the filters are full, electricity is needed to release the carbon dioxide to restart the cycle. For this process to be net zero however, we need to figure out how to produce the electricity renewably, and where to release the carbon dioxide to to clear the filter.

That’s what makes offshore windfarms such a great candidate, as renewable energy can be provided from the excess produced from wind turbines, and the carbon dioxide captured could then easily be piped into storage beneath the sea floor without complex and long pipelines required.

could this really work?

With direct air capture only just beginning to be deployed on land, this technology will probably take some time to be adapted to offshore windfarms, and researchers are currently studying how these systems of carbon capture function under harsh and fluctuant marine conditions.

Furthermore, the excess energy available from offshore windfarms greatly depends on wind speeds as well as demand for energy, both of which vary greatly. This will make it hard to ensure that this technology is always up and running without having to power it non-renewably.

On the bright side, estimates for the amount of excess energy required, and the energy production these new offshore windfarms will produce, looks promising.

In addition, researchers have estimated that sub-seafloor geological formations near to the planned offshore windfarms have the capacity to store more than 500 gigatons of CO2.

Carbon storage beneath the sea floor in the Mid-Atlantic

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