Onshore Wind Turbines

What Are Onshore Wind Turbines?

Onshore wind turbines are simply turbines located on land that harness the given area’s natural wind forces. This broad category of wind turbines is generally located in rural areas with minimal wind obstructions and frequently occurring natural wind movement. 

 

These turbines can still be in hard-to-reach areas, but compared to offshore wind turbines, they enable lower operating costs via less expensive inspections and maintenance processes

 

In 2022, the aggregate capacity of installed wind power worldwide was 906 gigawatts, 842 of which were from onshore wind turbines. While offshore wind power can provide more consistency, onshore turbines are significantly more common.

Onshore vs Offshore Wind Turbines: Understanding the Difference

Onshore turbines are contrasted with offshore wind turbines, which are located in ocean waters in areas known for having high wind speeds. Both types of wind turbines contribute to the overall renewable energy generation of the area, but there are distinct differences in how they operate and the benefits they provide.

 

A core difference between these two types of turbines is energy output and capacity factor. A capacity factor is an energy source’s average power output divided by its maximum power capacity. 

 

The average capacity factor of onshore wind turbines is lower than other forms of energy, coming in at an average of 35%. Conversely, the average capacity factor of offshore wind turbines is estimated at 58%.

 

Due to the more predictable wind forces at sea, onshore wind turbines tend to have a lower capacity factor than offshore wind turbines. However, due to their location, offshore turbines also have more expensive installation, inspection, and maintenance costs.

Pros and Cons of Onshore Wind Turbines

Wind turbines have plenty of advantages over other forms of energy generation, but we’ll focus on contrasting the pros and cons of onshore wind turbines against their offshore counterparts. 

 

So, let’s explore a few of these advantages and disadvantages to further understand onshore vs offshore wind turbines.

Advantages of Onshore Turbines

Onshore wind turbines are the most popular category of turbines due to their advantages over offshore turbines. A few of these advantages are:

 

  • Lower operating costs: Inspections, maintenance, and repair are all much simpler for onshore turbines. Technicians can visit each turbine by land, rather than sea, to carry out frequent inspections to keep turbines operating optimally. Advancements in autonomous drone inspections help to further reduce operating costs.
  • Quick installation: Installation of the turbine and supporting infrastructure is no small task for either category, but onshore turbines are substantially faster to get up and running. Offshore turbines have a significant upfront cost, and complex engineering processes contribute to greater upfront costs.
  • Efficient infrastructure: Generated electricity must move through a cable before reaching its destination. Traveling through cables introduces energy loss; the longer the cables, the more substantial the loss becomes. Onshore turbines must transfer energy at a shorter distance, reducing loss and contributing to profitability.

Disadvantages of Onshore Turbines

Onshore turbines have some drawbacks compared to offshore wind turbines. Many of these disadvantages can be minimized or entirely eliminated based on careful planning of the future site of a wind farm or specific turbine.

 

A few disadvantages to be aware of include the following:

 

  • Potential for blockages: Onshore wind turbines are affected by more wind blockages than their offshore counterparts. Hills, mountains, and buildings can all affect the total power output of an onshore turbine. Fortunately, careful planning can help mitigate this drawback.
  • Variable wind forces: The capacity figures we explored above speak to the variable wind forces available to onshore turbines for power generation. There are several factors that contribute to the wind patterns in a given area, and onshore turbines may have periods of inactivity or low production.
  • Visual and auditory factors: Wind turbines are significant structures that can be seen for miles. They can also be loud at a close or medium distance. Both of these factors can make wind turbines obstructive to wildlife or local populations, whereas offshore turbines do not affect human populations. 

 

Combined, onshore and offshore wind generation are a major source of renewable energy with minimal climate impact. Wind turbines produce no emissions, require no rare materials, and have no reliance on fossil fuels.