New Energy Projects Boost the Use of Undersea Power Cables

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By Patrick J. Kiger

 

In the German North Sea, 80 wind turbines now under construction will eventually generate enough power for some 400,000 homes. That power will travel via advanced cables buried along several miles of ocean floor, part of a growing move toward undersea transmission of electricity.

Submarine power cables have been around since the early 1800s. But for most of their history, such cables were used primarily to transmit electricity from conventional sources such as coal plants, either between countries or out to islands or oil platforms.

As recently as a decade ago, the submarine cable industry was in decline. That changed in the mid-2000s, as rising energy prices and concerns about climate change stimulated interest in developing offshore wind and more efficient transnational power grids.

The worldwide market for submarine electrical cables has surged over the past decade, according to industry observers, and is set to grow even more. Areport published in November 2013 by Navigant Research, a Boulder, Colorado-based firm that tracks the energy industry, predicts that global sales of high-voltage submarine power cables will nearly triple over the next decade, from $1.9 billion in 2014 to more than $5.3 billion in 2023.

9 COMMENTS

  1. In the German North Sea, 80 wind turbines now under construction will eventually generate enough power for some 400,000 homes. That power will travel via advanced cables buried along several miles of ocean floor, part of a growing move toward undersea transmission of electricity.

    Quite often offshore wind farms or turbines on windswept islands, can share power cables with tidal turbine generators.

    http://subseaworldnews.com/2012/04/20/india-gujarat-plans-to-harness-tidal-energy/

    Or with wave-power generators:-

    http://www.thinkglobalgreen.org/WAVEPOWER.html

    Wave energy is a renewable, zero emission source of power. As water is about 800 times denser than air, the energy density of waves exceeds that of wind many times over, dramatically increasing the amount of energy available. Waves are predictable days in advance, making it easy to match supply and demand. The UK Marine Foresight Panel estimates that just 0.1% of available marine energy could supply five times the global demand for energy.

    The real goal for the renewables industry is so obvious – to harness the immense energy of the sea, and tap into a global market predicted to be worth £1tn – that its existence changes little. Estimates suggest that around the Scottish islands, tidal and wave power could generate 38,500 gigawatt hours a year, equivalent to three coal-fired power stations as large as Drax in north Yorkshire, the UK’s largest.

  2. The UK Marine Foresight Panel estimates that just 0.1% of available marine energy could supply five times the global demand for energy.

    These numbers alone demonstrate that our energy needs can be met with clean renewable sources of energy only. There really is no need and no good reason to keep burning fossil fuel. Japan for example has plenty of coastline that could be used for wind and wave power and do away with their dangerous, badly designed, obsolete nuclear power plants once and for all.

  3. The world’s leaders had better get on with building green energy systems.
    The rising seas are not going to wait for them!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-28852980

    A new assessment from Europe’s CryoSat spacecraft shows Greenland to be losing about 375 cu km of ice each year.

    Added to the discharges coming from Antarctica, it means Earth’s two big ice sheets are now dumping roughly 500 cu km of ice in the oceans annually.

    “The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009,” said Angelika Humbert from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

    “To us, that’s an incredible number,” she told BBC News.

    In its report to The Cryosphere journal, the AWI team does not actually calculate a sea-level rise equivalent number, but if this volume is considered to be all ice (a small part will be snow) then the contribution is likely to be on the order of just over a millimetre per year.

  4. Not sure what is going on here. At least three posts on this topic have vanished, and this AM while attempting to log onto the site, both Chrome and Firefox (two different computers) gave “This site has likely been hijacked” messages.

    The posts were all pretty innocuous, no dead babies, just the technicalities of offshore wind farms, so I doubt they were moderated.

    Can any light be shone on what is going on?

    • From the RD facebook site:

      Our website is experiencing errors and we are currently working on it. We don’t yet know what the cause of the outage is. We will update here on Facebook as information becomes available and post when the issue has been resolved. Thank you for your patience and support.

      UPDATE 1: The site is back up, however, several articles are missing. We are attempting to retrieve them. If they cannot be retrieved we will be reposting all articles that were lost.

      UPDATE 2: Today it was noticed by our host that the server our site was on was having issues. In order to prevent any catastrophic problems, and ensure the lowest amount of downtime for it site, it was moved to a new server. However, since the daily backup hadn’t yet run for today, Richard’s article along with two others (and their accompanying comments) were lost. We are still investigating if we can still retrieve that information but in the meantime we are going to repost the missing articles.

      My comment is missing as well. The official explaination for the loss of comments is shown above, but it does seem more than a little odd that only the comments that posed questions on the green credentials of offshore wind power seem to have disappeared……… Wait a minute! Does this indicate that the website failure is linked to a major conspiracy by greedy money-making “Big Wind” corporations to silence any dissent that may jeopardise their nefarious pursuit of global domination? I’m off to get my tin foil hat..

    • JC Sheepdog Aug 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      Not sure what is going on here. At least three posts on this topic have vanished, and this AM while attempting to log onto the site, both Chrome and Firefox (two different computers) gave “This site has likely been hijacked” messages.

      One was your post on the support infrastructure for offshore wind farms.

      Another was my suggestion that you might like to make a comparison of cost with offshore oil and gas rigs, as you suggested professional involvement in design work.

      You also raised the question of green fuelling of aircraft.

      I suggested this new development showed hydrogen generated from renewable electricity as a possible aircraft fuel.

      http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/space_skylon_tech.html

      SKYLON employs two SABRE hybrid air-breathing/rocket engines. These engines employ liquid hydrogen fuel with atmospheric air up to Mach 5.5 and on-board liquid oxygen beyond that to orbital velocities.
      SKYLON uses SABRE engines in air-breathing mode to accelerate from take-off to Mach 5.5 which allows 1,250 tonnes of atmospheric air to be captured and used in the engines, of which 250 tonnes is oxygen which therefore does not have to be carried in propellant tanks. At Mach 5.5 and 25 kilometres altitude the SABRE engine transitions to its rocket engine mode, using liquid oxygen stored on board SKYLON, to complete its ascent to orbit at a speed of Mach 25. In this space access application, SABRE engines need an operational life of only 55 hours to achieve 200 flights, significantly less than the 10,000s of hours needed for conventional jet engines.

  5. A4D, thanks for the recap. Taking your points in order.

    The oil industry, on and off shore is a far more “mature” industry than the offshore wind industry, and much of its “new build cost” infrastructure has been in place long enough to amortise its initial cost. However, there is an ongoing significant global “new build” of equipment. Very much apropos of this, I am currently directly involved in the trials and acceptance of exactly the type of thing that is an example of “new oil,” a 70 meter high speed crew transfer vessel for the oil industry. I tried to insert a picture, but apparently I cannot, however here is a link, the ship concerned is usually the first to appear on their home page, as a graphic: http://www.caspmarine.com/

    This represents at one end, the new construction side of the oil industries infrastructure. At the other end are the drilling platforms, and the large scale “heavy” engineering. To do a comparison between this, and the wind industry is a task in itself, and would involve more time, sadly, than I am permitted at the moment.

    However, the “energy in” to “energy out” ratio of the oil industry is very telling. In broad terms, globally, one barrel of oil is expended to produce nearly 20, and that number is falling, fast. At the industries best productive period, the number was one to about 110. The least efficient, and the filthiest, producer is the Alberta tar sands, where the ratio is one in 5, in the estimate of the producers. It is probably closer to one in 3. Since the 1:20 figure is a mean, there are obviously far more efficient producers making up the average. The problem there is that few if any the efficient producers are on the North American continent. They are commonly in places where relations with the US of A are dubious at best.

    Richard Heinberg’s book: The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies. is an almost mandatory read on the subject. His dates on the peaking of global supplies have been pushed back by about ten years, but his overall hypothesis remains valid.

    That is probably the best I can do on your first point.

    The second, the REL Sabre hydrogen / oxygen reaction engine, which wiki tells me may go to test (engine only) in the foreseeable future is nothing if not interesting, and I would be delighted to be proven wrong, but it seems its promotors are viewing it for space exploration rather than mass transport. Obvious practical problems of large scale cryogenic fuel abound, and I am by no means certain as to the volume of hydrogen that can be created per kilowatt of electricity.

    But, we are clever little apes, and some of us have our thinking caps on. I will agree that a solution will likely be found. I just don’t see it happening any time soon.

    • JC Sheepdog Aug 23, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks for the breakdown on off-shore construction.
      You have linked an interesting series of pictures of off-shore support vessels.

      The second, the REL Sabre hydrogen / oxygen reaction engine, which wiki tells me may go to test (engine only) in the foreseeable future is nothing if not interesting, and I would be delighted to be proven wrong, but it seems its promotors are viewing it for space exploration rather than mass transport. Obvious practical problems of large scale cryogenic fuel abound, and I am by no means certain as to the volume of hydrogen that can be created per kilowatt of electricity.

      I think there are features of the SABRE engine which point to possible applications in the air-transport industry.

      First:- it is a high performance engine with an air breathing mode. The oxygen-rocket mode is for travel to orbit, rather than a sub-orbital flight across Earth. I would expect a commercial development for air transport, to concentrate on air-breathing systems.

      Second:- at its high velocities, and high altitudes, transit times will be short, so the time cryogenic hydrogen needs to be kept on the aircraft is also short.

      Third:- ground facilities for handling liquid hydrogen are established technology – well used in rocketry by the various space-agencies.

      Fourth: – if a hydrogen infrastructure was set out in place for the motor industry, this type of aircraft fuelling would fit in with it.

      http://richarddawkins.net/2014/06/japan-plans-ample-support-for-fuel-cell-car-technology/

  6. I thought I might plug this in support of my statement that the energy in / energy out ratio for the Alberta tar sands is closer to 1 in 3, rather than the industries claim of 1 in 5.

    When energy expended in past and future disaster mitigation is factored in, I suspect it could be driven down even further. http://www.livescience.com/47535-tar-sands-ponds-toxic-and-unstable.html

    Thanks for the interesting info on the SABRE engine. Without doubting the premise, the compression ignition oil burning engine (diesel) is such a perfected technology with an incredibly wide application base, it has even been applied to aircraft (Junkers apparently flew an aluminium deltic configuration 2 stroke diesel before WWII) that it, and the gas turbine are really going to need some force to kick them off their pedestals.

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