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The Blue Economy: Offshore Wind Technology and the Renewable Energy Conundrum

Things are getting crowded on planet Earth. According to a United Nations report, it’s estimated that the world’s population will reach 8.5 billion by the year 2030. This presents a wide swath of potential problems in terms of demand for food, clean water, and sustainable energy. What will all these people eat and drink? Where will they get the electricity to power their iPads? Thankfully, a bold solution may be floating in on the breeze – or at least, may lie in offshore wind technology. As part of an ongoing series on the Blue Economy, Bold Business is exploring the advantages of wind power.

Of course, one of the biggest advantages of wind power is that it is renewable energy. Unlike oil and coal, which is depleted after use, the wind just keeps going. Experts foresee offshore wind technology to succeed in the United States just like it has in the United Kingdom.

Renewable Energy from Power Generation Technologies

Renewable energy, in the long run, is an affordable and practical solution to our electricity needs. It will decrease our dependence on oil, coal and other fossil fuels. ­It will, therefore, help in lessening air pollution. The technology will also create new job opportunities and industries. The U.S. has the available resources and technologies to generate as much as 80 percent of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050. They will, in part, generate 40 percent in the next 20 years.

Power generation technologies are those that make use of existing energy flow from natural sources or renewable natural resources—like the sun, tides, heat, and wind—and then transform that energy flux to electricity. In the case of offshore wind technology, the wind turbines used in gathering the energy flux from the wind are placed where the strong and constant winds are off the coast—but still within view of the coastline—and set on the seabed itself.

The availability of uninterrupted powerful winds found in the middle of the sea and far from the coast is one of the advantages of wind power via offshore wind technology. In addition, amassing electricity from a renewable natural resource such as the wind is beneficial in moving the country towards a better Blue Economy.

Offshore Wind Technology—Pros and Cons

There is a need to assess and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of investing in offshore wind technology. The reality is that there are disadvantages to offshore wind technology. First, offshore wind farms that use this technology can be very challenging and notably costly to build and maintain. Second, the construction of offshore wind farms are within view of the coastline—estimated about 26 miles offshore. It may upset local residents near the coast, disturb tourism, and influence nearby property values. Third, there is a lack of understanding and research on the effects of offshore wind farms on marine wildlife and birds.

A significant advantage of offshore wind technology is the creation of jobs for the building and maintaining of wind farms. Offshore wind farms also do not consume water or emit greenhouse gases or environmental pollutants.

 The Advantages of Wind Power in the Blue Economy

European countries have been the forerunners in offshore wind technology.

In total, Europe has had a significant head-start in the industry, boasting 94 wind farms to date. It is therefore apparent from price changes that the U.S. is stepping into the foyer of an improving Blue Economy.

With offshore wind technology, harnessing the power of the wind may decrease our dependence on electricity from non-renewable resources.

The constant changes in the temperature of the sea produce winds that can be an inexhaustible source for electricity. The U.S. has been looking forward to making use of it as it adopts sustainable methods for electricity generation.

Bold Realities in the Offshore Wind Technology

For many years, a large-scale industry for offshore wind technology seemed like a far-off thought for the U.S. However, based on the developments in the U.K. and Europe, U.S. policymakers continue to look at the said technology as a feasible option to attain renewable energy goals.

In December 2016, one offshore wind farm began operating off the coast of Rhode Island.  The Block Island Wind Farm, America’s “first offshore wind farm,” houses small five wind turbines.

Such bold moves in the U.S., therefore, are a reflection of what the world’s largest offshore wind technology developer, Danish company, Ørsted, has been doing for the U.K. Offshore wind technology provides at least five percent of the country’s electrical power. This will feasibly quadruple by 2030.

Ørsted has been constructing a massive facility about 60 miles off the coast of Grimsby in Northern England. The place is home to seven wind farms.

Certainly, investing in offshore wind technology and making use of the advantages of wind power is a bold opportunity. There is a call for investments in technologies that make use of renewable sources. The advancements in offshore wind technology should inspire other countries to take similar steps in providing similar technology.

Sidewalk Labs Toronto, NEOM and the Push for Building Smart Cities Around the World

Smart cities are livable, accessible and human-centered communities where technology, innovation and sustainable use of resources intersect. And there is a growing interest in building smart cities around the globe. The investments into smart city initiatives globally were recorded at $81 billion in 2018 and investments are projected to double by 2022. Seventy percent of the population will be concentrated in urban areas by 2050. Smart city startups such as Sidewalk Labs Toronto are helping assess the technology, test policies and develop structures, laying the groundwork for the cities of the future.

Sidewalk Labs Toronto: Creating the Neighborhood of the Future

A smart city generally encompasses urban development programs for integrating data and technology to make communities habitable, connected and sustainable. But Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs Toronto has grander plans. By applying technology, innovation, and time-tested urban design, Sidewalk Labs Toronto aims to create smart cities that are quick to accommodate the evolving needs of its dwellers. Affordable housing, improved transportation options, and more livable public places are some of the challenges Sidewalk Labs Toronto seeks to address. Working alongside architecture firms Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studios, Sidewalk Labs proposes an expansion of the city’s light rail transit, heated pedestrian pathways, energy-efficient buildings, and affordable housing.

Sidetracked, But Now Getting Back on Track

The plan for a smart city project in Quayside, Toronto’s East Bayfront area, was unveiled in October 2017. The project—headed by Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff—is focused on making the area a greenhouse of urban innovations and technology. Currently, the Sidewalk Labs Toronto Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) is being revised. Even amidst data privacy concerns and transparency issues, Sidewalk Labs Toronto is taking steps to engage the public.

So far, community involvement has taken the form of roundtables, panels, conferences, and demonstration of prototypes. Such steps were done with the intent to involve all stakeholders in developing a plan pleasing to all. Doctoroff appreciates the discussion around the project. He states, “We’re big believers that in order to create a successful project, particularly one that is new and different, you have to put ideas out there, you have to be willing to take the criticism…” The company revealed that the complete MIDP will be published by Spring, 2019. Clearly, Sidewalk Labs Toronto is taking decisive steps to get back on track.

a colorful illustration or depiction of a smart city helped created by Sidewalk Labs Toronto
By applying technology, innovation, and time-tested urban design, Sidewalk Labs Toronto aims to create smart cities that are quick to accommodate the evolving needs of its dwellers.

Building Smart Cities: Urban Innovations Across the Globe

Obviously, with the rising demand for cities that combine technology, innovation, and sustainability, innovators are working on building smart cities across the globe. For example:

  1. Guangzhou, China partnered with CISCO and Plug and Play in building a smart city in its Panyu District. The $2.9 billion-project will cover a 3.2 square kilometer area housing various sectors under production, academics, research, business, and residence.
  2. Belmont City in Arizona is an $80 million-smart cityThe 24,800-acre property will be a residential, commercial, retail and business space. Located just outside Phoenix, the project aims to create a 100 percent smart city equipped with cutting edge digital technologies, self-driving cars and state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities.
  3. Dubbed as the world’s most ambitious project, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has invested $500 billion in building NEOM. A project covering a vast 25,900 square kilometers, NEOM will include a bridge spanning the Red Sea. In addition, there will be an urban area stretching across Jordan and Egypt, and a private airport.
  4. In Gujarat, India, another Smart City project is taking shape. The Dholera Smart City project began in 2011 and is expected to be operational within the year. Featuring excellent connectivity and transportation, Dholera Smart City has railways, ports, highways and an international airport.

Historically, communities were formed as a response to a human’s need to be in a safe environment. Moreover, a community answers the need to share physical space and interact with other people. Therefore, by placing these needs at the fore, stakeholders are truly building smart cities of the future.