Thomas Hansen, Director of Renewable Energy at St1, discusses the significant energy challenges we face and encourages moving away from the offshore wind vs. onshore wind mindset to focus on the benefits of wind power.
– We will also need offshore wind, but that is not an argument against developing onshore wind where it is possible with minimal negative consequences.
– There are enormous amounts of fossil energy that need to be replaced. So if we want to become independent of fossil fuels in the long run while maintaining the living standards we are accustomed to, we actually need to utilize all good projects with renewable energy. Projects that allow us to use the available energy and exploit it with minimal adverse side effects, says Hansen.
It was about being involved and engaged in the overall process. And how essential the daily dialogue was between the major industrial player and all those who were involved and affected in the local community. This is a critical role for us to continue a good, open, and mutually beneficial dialogue in the times to come, he emphasizes.
We can estimate that good offshore wind projects are about twice as expensive as onshore ones. So the energy produced by offshore wind becomes much more expensive. Offshore wind comes with significantly higher extraction costs.
The St1 director can observe that the debate about offshore wind vs. onshore wind, and whether wind power plants should be built on land or at sea, is increasing in intensity. But what actually differentiates these two options? Hansen is asked to highlight some key points.
– The major difference, at least for today, is costs. Of course, this is project-dependent, but we can estimate that good offshore wind projects are about twice as expensive as onshore ones. So energy produced by offshore wind becomes much more expensive than energy produced by onshore wind. Offshore wind comes with significantly higher extraction costs. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't develop offshore wind. We need it too, Hansen says.
The Director of Renewable Energy points out that the example above refers to fixed installations, not floating ones.
– When we talk about floating wind, it is actually even more expensive in reality. Perhaps ten times as expensive compared to onshore wind.
Another key difference between offshore wind and onshore wind is, of course, the use of areas.
– Onshore wind clearly occupies larger land areas, that's undeniable. But if you consider the impact it has on other aspects, such as biodiversity and fisheries, it's very project-specific. Regardless of whether it's on land or at sea, there are good and bad projects, Hansen explains.
A widely shared belief is that there are far more stable wind conditions at sea. That's true – with some qualifications.
– Generally, one can say there is more wind at sea, and the resource is easier to find. At the same time, there are locations on land that have wind resources just as good. The Davvi project is an example of that. There, you have practically offshore wind conditions, says Hansen.
Even though offshore options are generally talked about more positively than onshore wind, the St1 man is clear that offshore wind is several years in the future.
– We will take advantage of it. Still, I don't think we should expect anything for several years to come. Realistically, we can hope that offshore wind will pick up after the 2030s, he predicts.
And while we're on the subject of timing, Hansen urges caution in waiting too long for new opportunities in the future without addressing the energy challenge here and now.
– The challenge must be tackled now; we must stop pushing it ahead of us. We must also stop believing that building at sea has no consequences. Because it does, the consequences just haven't been specified yet, says the director.
If it were the case that one could simply sit and wait for the perfect solution, without any negative consequences, it would be rational to wait.
– But that's not the case. Offshore wind won't be problem-free either. And I say this as a person who is also involved in developing offshore wind projects, Hansen continues.
If you look at the impact it has on other things, such as biodiversity and fisheries, it's actually very project-specific. Regardless of whether you are on land or at sea, there are good and bad projects.
Therefore, he emphasizes that onshore wind power plays an essential role, both now and in the future.
– We are in a hurry to reach the climate goals we have set for ourselves. Onshore wind power actually helps us become independent of fossil fuels. It is competitive even without subsidies, which is a key point here, says the director, before concluding:
– Onshore wind power, with the cost we can develop it to now, pulls us into the energy transition. It stands on its own and enables the establishment of competitive renewable industries. Offshore wind does not do this yet. So we must seize the opportunity now because the challenges we face will not diminish if we wait. Quite the opposite, they will grow.