Studying the Environmental Consequences of Offshore Wind
Ingvild Øijorden recently finished her master in Renewable Energy with a specialization in Environmental Consequences of Renewable Energy. With a background in oceanography she wrote her master thesis on the influence of offshore wind farms on primary production in the North Sea.
Why did you choose to study the master in energy at UiB/HiB and why did you choose your specialization?
During the last year of my bachelor degree in meteorology and oceanography I decided that I wanted to study renewable energy for my master degree. My interest for the climate and environment has always been the motivation for my choice of study and with a master in renewable energy at UiB I felt like I had more options to work within a sustainable industry in my future career.
I chose to study environmental consequences of renewable energy so that I could combine my interest for renewable energy, oceanography, meteorology and environmental consequences of human activity.
What do you think about the master in energy at UiB/HiB?
The best thing about this master program is that there are so many specialization topics to choose from. So if you have an interest in or background from an energy topic it is likely that you can study it here and do exciting research on it.
What are your best experiences from this program?
That must be finding interesting results when working on my master thesis. I also remember the field trip to Midtfjellet wind farm at Fitjar as exciting.
Tell us about your master thesis.
My master thesis was on the less studied influence of offshore wind farms on primary production in the North Sea. Primary production is the production of new biomass by primary producers, which is at the bottom of the food chain. By the use of numerical modelling I investigated the effect of a reduced wind stress pattern from realistic offshore wind farms in the North Sea on physical parameters and primary production. When including the effect from wind farms I found that the total primary production in the North Sea was similar to the reference case, but the change in the geographical distribution was large. Because of this the primary production at given locations was shown to be highly affected by the change in wind stress due to offshore wind farms. This change in geographical distribution may influence higher trophic levels and cause conflicts between different regions in the North Sea.
Tell us about the theoretical framework you use in developing your research?
I used the numerical model ECOSMO, a coupled bio-physical model. I developed a method further to include the effect from offshore wind farms by reducing the wind stress in the wake area of a wind farm. I used Fortran and Matlab for development and analysis.
How do you think your research can influence the world?
There are few studies on environmental consequences of offshore wind farms on population level impact and more is needed. Hopefully my research can inspire others to study the topic in greater detail with a more detailed representation of the effect of wind farms on the ocean. If the change in geographical distribution of primary production is shown to be as large as was found in my study, the consequences for some regions may be large, potentially leading to political and economic conflicts.
What is the coolest finding of your research?
The most interesting finding must be the large effect found on distribution of primary production in the North Sea caused by change in wind stress downstream of wind farms.
How do you think this education can be used in your future career?
Combined with my bachelor degree in meteorology and oceanography, I think this education gives me a broad spectrum of knowledge of energy, understanding atmosphere-ocean interactions and working with numerical tools and handling large sets of data, useful in many jobs.
How do you picture the energy future? What is your vision or hope?
The energy future is a zero emission future. To reach this as soon as possible it is important to stay below the 1.5 to 2 degrees limit of global warming. For large parts of the world the future contains a mix of hydropower, solar and wind energy, hydrogen and biofuel. For some parts solar power will be an important part of the energy future and developing countries must take the shortcut directly to the cheaper and more sustainable renewable energy, with funding from developed countries. For Norway there will hopefully be a rapid growth in jobs within the renewable sector.