One Thousand Windturbines on the North Sea
There are more and more windmills – wind turbines, I should say – in the North Sea. Good plan, because if it’s windy somewhere, it’s there. And they don’t bother anyone either, you might say. Yet the inveterate windmill haters get furious about wind turbines at sea. Others, like me, find it a pity that those wind farms are so far off the coast.
“We live on a planet close to its star, with a decent atmosphere, a liquid core and a large moon; if we don’t manage to generate our energy in a safe and sustainable way, we’re not worth a cut.” (Shaun Moss)
Indeed, we could have had it much worse. If that star is further away, solar panels are of little use. Without atmosphere there is no wind. Without a red-hot core you can forget about geothermal heat. And without a moon as big as ours, a tidal power station is useless.
We have it all, so why are we still using fossil fuels and nuclear energy?
From those four options (sun, wind, geothermal heat, tides) wind as an energy source makes the most sense in the Netherlands. After all, it is almost always windy in the lowlands by the sea. And so for a thousand years we have used windmills to grind grain, saw wood and drain polders.
In recent years, more and more modern wind turbines have appeared in the landscape. I can see the beauty of that myself. The constantly changing image in different weather conditions, the slenderness of the shafts apparently constructed from one piece of milky white steel, the playful image of countless rotating blades; I can appreciate it. Of course it helps that a wind turbine does not cause radiation, earthquakes or sea level rise.
Yet today’s wind turbines are less popular than the traditional Dutch windmills. And okay, I can imagine that poeple are not enthousiastic about such a whopper in their backyard. And I can also imagine that there are small-scale landscapes where a modern wind turbine is a bit out of place. Fortunately, the Netherlands has a large part of the North Sea at its disposal. And the wind is usually even stronger there.
As a result, more and more offshore wind farms are appearing in the North Sea. Just under 500 wind turbines are now in place in the Dutch part of the North Sea (situation 2022). Within a few years, we’ll reach the magic number of one thousand windmills. In total, the parks cover about one and a half percent of the Dutch Continental Shelf. Together they account for about 2500 MW / 10,000 GWH.
The turbines are far out from the coast; in clear weather they can be seen on the horizon. And you can also see them from the plane, neatly arranged in a grid. Little blades in a huge bowl of water. Fits perfectly with the vastness of the sea. Everyone is happy, you would think.
However, there are also opponents here. I don’t get it. So how on earth do you want to generate your energy? Horizon pollution, they shout. A subjective argument; one could just as well speak of horizon embellishment.
Out of reach
I personally think it’s a pity that those wind farms are so inaccessibly far from the coast. It must be very impressive to be in the middle of such a grid of windmills, with a sea of calmly turning blades in all directions. Can’t one exception be made, for example at the Maasvlakte, with wind turbines close to the beach?
I’m afraid I can’t change the minds of the inveterate opponents with a few pictures. But to illustrate the aesthetics of offshore wind farms, I made a few artist impressions. They show the windmills in different weather conditions. And they show a beauty that most of us never see in real life.
The windmills in these visualizations are 150 meters high, including the blades. But you only really see how big that is when you add a small scale element: a Viking ship, a Spanish galleon or a modern sailing boat. After all, as we saw earlier, the utilization of wind energy is not something that has started in recent years.
There is a rule of thumb for the mutual distance between wind turbines: five times the diameter of the blades. If you put them closer to each other, they are less efficient because they catch each other’s wind. I naturally took this distance into account in my artist impressions. And then I used a telephoto lens so that they seem relatively close together. Everything for the picture…
There is a good chance that my blog will no longer exist at the end of this century. But I want to make a prediction. Suppose by that time there is a much better, sustainable and infinite energy source available, nuclear fusion, antimatter, zero point energy, whatever. And that as a result wind turbines and wind farms will be demolished on a large scale. Then there will be activists who stand up who fight for the preservation of this cultural heritage.