The changing winds in the energy sector
The push towards renewable energy sources is strong across the world, as climate crisis deepens and activists put pressure on governments to change policies.
Moreover, there have been strong advancements in the past few years that have brought down the costs of wind turbine installations and energy transportation. There are also new designs being tested to overcome the challenges that wind turbines face — and even cause — at the moment; such as the Wind Tree that has multiple smaller rotating parts, vertical-axis wind turbines, and high-altitude Turbines.
Wind energy has the potential to cater to the energy needs of the entire world 18 times over. Yet it currently accounts for just 0.3%. Investments in the sector are on the rise, expected to reach $1 trillion globally by 2040.
Today, China is leading offshore wind energy power plants. Closer to home, in July Saudi Arabia announced its first offshore wind farm due to be developed by UAE’s Plambeck Emirates in partnership with Italian energy services firm Saipem. Soon after in the month of August, the Gulf’s first utility-scale wind farm with a capacity of 50 megawatts started generating power in Oman’s southern Dhofar region.
However, there are a few challenges that still remain to scale wind energy generation to meet the demands of the world:
1. Gas used in the wind turbines is 23,000 times worse than carbon dioxide
To keep wind turbines safe and prevent short circuits in the plant, the industry has been using a gas called SF6, that is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide. Moreover, its emissions have been rising rapidly over the last decade, and there is an urgent need to find an alternative to this.
2. Negative impact on the nature
This continues to be a cause for debate even amongst environmentalists. Wind turbines make noise, and as such, impact life of humans and animals. Different countries have different rules regarding how far wind farms should be from civilisation.
Moreover, on land, often forests need to be cleared to install wind farms, which directly impact the ecosystem of wild animals and reduce trees that are natural protection against climate change. Wind turbines have also led to the deaths of birds.
While off-shore wind farms are becoming more common — seemingly an option to keep the green lands safer — governments need to work with environmentalists who specialise in marine ecosystems and migratory patterns of birds to ensure the wind farms do not disrupt their paths or cause harm.