While most renewable energy advocates push for an inclusive “all of the above” approach that embraces solar panels, geothermal, and tidal power, there’s usually one method around which all others orbit. In Northern Europe and the North Sea, that’s wind power.
Dutch landscape architecture firm H+N+S has a plan to harness this potential by installing 25,000 wind turbines in the North Sea across 22,000 square miles, the focus of this month’s cover story, “Power Play 2050.” Over the next 33 years, they say the North Sea can generate 90 percent of power demanded.
H+N+S’s plan, dubbed “2050 – An Energetic Odyssey” and featured at the 2016 International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, is an economic development plan as well as a climate change plan. They predict booming and expanded ports (including an entire island dedicated to the manufacture and construction of wind power infrastructure) and a net gain of jobs, even after accounting for job losses in fossil fuel industries. It would be an incomparable build-up of energy infrastructure, but there’s also a conscientious sense of economical re-use and environmental sensitivity. As described in the video, oil pipelines will be co-opted for carbon sequestration, serving the fossil fuel burners that remain. And wind turbines will have to be designed so that they act as welcoming habitats for underwater plants and animals. These towers will be 12 miles out from shore so that they don’t ruin anyone’s seaward view, far enough away so that the curvature of the earth makes them mostly imperceptible.
“It can be done,” intones the video’s calm, precise BBC-documentary-style narration, “but only when a tailwind can be organized in the shape of realistic pricing or taxation of carbon dioxide that would provide the invisible hand of the market with green gloves.”