Energy News Today

Giant Wind Farms Arise Off Scotland, Easing the Pain of Oil’s Decline

The pilot of the nearly 80-foot work boat gunned its powerful engines, pinning the bow against the base of a towering wind turbine in the smooth North Sea. Three men in yellow and orange outfits stepped onto metal rungs and started slowly scaling the nearly 300-foot structure, past the huge blades that help send electricity to Scotland.

It was a regular workday for these employees and contractors of a Scottish utility, SSE, and its partners, which operate the vast Beatrice wind farm off the northern tip of Great Britain.

Their job is to go from turbine to turbine — Beatrice has 84 arrayed over 50 square miles of blue water — performing maintenance of the powerful machines. Teams can usually service two or three in a day.

It’s grueling work — up to 12 hours a day on the water — but it has its rewards. David Larter, one of the men who climbed the tower, showed a video he had made on his phone while eating lunch one day from a perch high above the North Sea: a minke whale, gently rolling through the water below the tower. “We were quite lucky that day,” he said.

Like other people around Wick, a former fishing port where the wind farm’s operations are based, Mr. Larter also considers himself fortunate to have signed onto a business that is growing as Europe seeks to replace oil and gas, whose production has been a mainstay of this part of Scotland, with cleaner energy.

“This industry is the future, isn’t it,” he said.

Across the globe, governments and developers are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into large offshore wind farms like Beatrice to meet climate-change goals.

These initiatives are attractive to investors and lawmakers because they produce enormous amounts of clean energy and can be placed far enough from shore that they are largely out of sight. Britain is already generating more than 10 percent of its electricity from wind at sea, and on same gusty days, like Nov. 2, wind produces more than half. As energy security becomes a critical issue in wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the country aspires to nearly quadruple offshore capacity over the next decade.

Around the Moray Firth, a triangular notch of the North Sea off Wick, there is abundant evidence of cleaner energy replacing fossil fuels. The Beatrice wind farm takes its name from a nearby offshore oil field that was depleted and will be gradually dismantled. (The oil field was named for a wife of T. Boone Pickens, the American oilman, whose company developed Beatrice.)

Just to the southwest is another port, Nigg, where Global Energy Group recently spent 120 million pounds (about $137 million) beefing up the docks so it can load the enormous components for offshore wind turbines onto ships.

Although tight supplies of natural gas have caused electricity bills to soar over the past year, skepticism about the future of fossil fuels remains strong in Britain and much of Europe, and the numbers tell a story of decline. After reaching a peak in 2014, investment in…

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2022-11-27 04:03:28

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