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Hitachi Energy - Onshore and Offshore wind: What’s the Difference?

By Alfredo Parres
02-05-2023 | 3 min read

Renewable energy sources are enjoying their time in the spotlight and to be honest, I don’t see this changing much.

The world is increasingly looking to renewable energy as a solution to our ongoing energy crisis, efforts to combat climate change, a cheaper alternative to power homes and business and a myriad of other concerns.

Whilst there are various sources of renewable energy (hello hydro and solar), I wanted to focus on the wind sector. In this brief blog post, I’ll explore the differences between offshore wind and onshore wind, their benefits and conclude with why both have an integral part to play in the future of sustainable energy.

Let’s get started.

Offshore and onshore: what are the differences?

Whilst offshore and onshore wind technology produce electricity from the same source, where they generate this energy from is the key difference between the two.

Offshore wind turbines and farms are installed in the sea and generate electricity from the wind that blows across this water. This type of wind power is a fast-growing, promising means of delivering consistent, clean and affordable renewable energy.

Onshore wind power on the other hand, is generated by wind turbines that are located on land. This type of renewable energy generation is well-established and uses highly successful and attractive technology for producing large amounts of clean and reliable energy.

Connecting the world’s largest offshore wind farm to power 6 million homes in the UK

Record figures for wind electricity generation

According to the International Energy Agency, wind electricity generation increased by 17% in 2021 - 55% higher growth than that achieved in 2020.

Whilst wind power in general is a marvel, there is a debate about which type of wind energy is best…or even, if there is one. It might help for us to delve into the benefits these two sources of renewable energy can bring to economies, local communities and more. 

Advantages of offshore wind power

Wind speeds are generally higher and more frequent and constant offshore, which means the turbines can generate more electricity. The turbines used are often larger than their onshore counterparts, enabling greater economies of scale and provision of more efficient energy generation.

Whereas the location of onshore wind turbines must be very carefully chosen to fit in with local communities and ecology, offshore wind turbines are generally located far from residential areas so they are largely unaffected by these elements. Still development of offshore wind farms need to be done in harmony with fisheries and other users of the sea ecosystem

Finally, offshore wind power is often a more reliable source of energy as these turbines are integrally designed to withstand extreme weather conditions.

Advantages of onshore wind power

Whilst it may seem that onshore wind farms my offer less impressive size numbers, we cannot negate how beneficial they are for the communities and businesses they power.

Onshore wind turbines are generally less expensive to build and maintain – their smaller size and more accessible location make them easier to access for maintenance and repair. Perhaps their most notable benefit is that they can often be developed more rapidly as they are easier to construct and connect to the grid.

In fact, onshore wind is now so accessible that there are many wind farms which are developed and owned directly by local communities to provide power to their homes and businesses.

A complementary wind future

Both offshore and onshore wind power generation will play a critical role in meeting the world's future sustainable energy demands.

Whilst they both have their challenges and benefits, what we can be certain of is that they are a critical part of our renewable toolbox and will continue to be a mainstay of the energy transition for years to come.

offshore windmill park with clouds and a blue sky, windmill park in the ocean aerial view with wind turbine Flevoland Netherlands Ijsselmeer. Green energy

If you’d like to find out more about the energy transition, or to chat to our team about your renewable energy future, please contact us here.

    Alfredo Parres
    Head of Renewables

    As a renewable thought leader for almost two decades, Alfredo drives Hitachi Energy’s strategy in this sector and leads the business units in this segment.

    In addition, Alfredo is a member of the WindEurope Board and Chair of its System Integration Working Group. He also spent five years in China, where he acquired a deep understanding of the Chinese Wind Industry and was Chair of the Renewable Energy Working Group at the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.