As the world embraces alternative forms of power, the US would like to see offshore wind capacity to reach 30 gigawatts within the next decade. Energy from fossil fuels is still in widespread use but the expertise gained by gas and oil companies will help to develop more offshore turbines. Wind farms in locations such as the Gulf of Mexico will be able to make use of the existing infrastructure from gas and oil companies in order to scale up their operations. At the same time, bodies of water provide a reliable and economical location for solar panels to generate electricity in large floating installations. For all these sources of energy, new technology continues to improve the safety, accessibility and cost effectiveness of rigs, turbines and installations.
Robot Technology Improves Rig Safety
Long hours, poor weather conditions and heavy machinery create hazardous working conditions on offshore oil and gas rigs. Accidents and injuries are common, and may be caused by mechanical failure, explosions or even improper training. Some of these injuries can be very serious and, while offshore workers may be entitled to compensation under US Maritime Law, a Houston Maritime Attorney can help workers to hold their employers accountable. This can result in an improvement in safety levels and ensure that other workers are protected in the future. To further reduce the risks undertaken by human workers in hazardous conditions, the offshore oil and gas industry is embracing the use of robots on rigs. Robots can safely take readings, and carry out routine inspections or emergency repairs without unnecessarily endangering human lives.
Autonomous Vehicles Identify Sites for Wind Farms
In order to meet its ambitious goal for more offshore wind energy, the US will need to install thousands more wind turbines off the coasts of the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Installing wind farms at sea requires detailed knowledge of the sea floor which would normally be gained by large ships and cumbersome sonar equipment. To simplify the process of surveying the sea bed, two mechanical engineers have designed an electric autonomous vehicle with lightweight sensors capable of gathering large amounts of data that can be transmitted straight to shore.
Floating Solar Panels Generate More Energy
The installation of a large floating solar farm has recently been completed in the Straits of Johor in Singapore. It is believed to be one of the biggest offshore solar installations in the world, with a 5MW capacity. By placing solar farms on bodies of water, energy firms can avoid using valuable land resources or paying for expensive real estate. Due to the cooling effect of the water, floating solar panels are capable of generating more energy than land-based installations and they can also be used to manage water levels as they reduce evaporation.
While around the world greater focus is placed on offshore renewable forms of energy, knowledge gained from long-standing gas and oil rigs is proving valuable in their construction and operation. When this expertise is combined with new technological developments, all forms of offshore energy production are improved.