Offshore wind farms promise to become an important source of energy in the near future: it is expected that by the end of this decade, wind parks with a total capacity of thousands of megawatts will be installed in European seas. This will be equivalent to several large traditional coal-fired power stations. Plans are currently advancing for such large-scale wind parks in Swedish, Danish, German, Dutch, Belgian, British and Irish waters and the first such parks are currently being constructed at Horns Rev, and off Denmark's western coast, in the Danish part of the Baltic coast.
Onshore wind energy has grown enormously over the last decade to the point where it generates more than 10% of all electricity in certain regions (such as Denmark, Schleswig-Holstein in Germany and Gotland in Sweden). However, this expansion has not been without problems and the resistance to wind farm developments experienced in Britain since the mid 1990s,is now present in other countries to a lesser or greater extent. One solution, of avoiding land-use disputes and to reduce the noise and visual impacts, is to move the developments offshore, which also has a number of other advantages:
* availability of large continuous areas, suitable for major projects;
* higher wind speeds, which generally increase with distance from the shore;
* less turbulence, which allows the turbines to harvest the energy more effectively and reduces the fatigue loads on the turbine;
* lower wind-shear (i.e. the boundary layer of slower moving wind close to the surface is thinner), thus allowing the use of shorter towers.
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