Offshore Wind Energy

Background

Wind is the movement of air masses caused by the thermal gradients originating from the sun and the earth's rotation [1]. Since early recorded history, people have been using the energy of the wind. A 5,000-year-old drawing of a Nile river craft with sail is the oldest known record of wind use [2]. The sail technology used for boats had an important impact on the later development of simple sail-type windmills. The first documented design of a windmill was developed in Persia in 700 A.D. and used reed sails for blades [3]. However, there is the position that the windmill was first invented in China more than 2000 years ago and while this may be accurate, the earliest actual documentation of a Chinese windmill was in 1219 A.D. by the Chinese statesman Yehlu Chhu-Tshai [4]. These early windmills had blades standing up around a vertical shaft (vertical-axis) and were used to grind grain and pump water. Horizontal-axis windmills (with the axis of the rotating blades horizontal to the ground) were in extensive use in the use in the Middle East by 1000 A.D. [5].
 
The first windmills to appear in western Europe were of the horizontal-axis design and were introduced by returning merchants and crusaders. The Dutch later refined the design and built a great number and variety to drain lakes and marshes in the Rhine River Delta. Industrialization, first in Europe and later in America, led to a gradual decline in the use of windmills [6]. Yet this industrialization also ushered in the use of windmills to generate electricity. As early as 1893, windmills were used in Denmark to generate electricity to feed into the general system [3].
 
The idea to use offshore wind power to generate electricity can be found as early as the 1930s using pontoon systems [7]. Further detailed discussions for extracting energy from the wind with windmills sited at sea occurred in the 1970s [8] -accompanying skyrocketing oil prices and rising interest in the use of wind power. From the late 1970s to late 1980s initial feasibility studies on siting, technology, and economics of large-scale offshore wind turbine systems were conducted [9,10]. These studies paved the way for the development of the first demonstration projects in the 1990s [11,12].

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