It is expected that over the next few years, offshore wind power will expand impressively, helping decarbonise energy systems and reduce air pollution, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.
Dr Fatih Birol, IEA’s Executive Director, launched the Offshore Wind Outlook 2019 on 25 October, Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, Dan Jørgensen, in Copenhagen, Denmark; the birthplace of offshore wind.
The report, to be published in full on 13 November 2019, finds that, by 2040, global offshore wind capacity may increase 15-fold and attract around $1 trillion of cumulative investment.
This will happen due to the lower costs, the supportive government policies in place and some other outstanding technological progresses, including larger turbines and floating foundations.
The Executive Director, Dr Fatih Birol, highlights that “in the past decade, two major areas of technological innovation have been game-changers in the energy system by substantially driving down costs: the shale revolution and the rise of solar PV,”“offshore wind has the potential to join their ranks in terms of steep cost reduction.”
Moreover, the IEA report finds that with the support from policy makers, offshore wind technology has the potential to grow far more strongly.
Europe, which has already pioneered in offshore wind technology, is also expected to be the powerhouse of any future development.
Currently, the offshore wind capacity in the EU is estimated to be nearly 20 gigawatts; and by 2040 this is set to increase to 130 gigawatts, under current policy settings.
Nevertheless, taking into account that the European Union will reach its carbon-neutrality expectations by 2040, offshore wind capacity will jump to around 180 gigawatts and thus become the region’s largest single source of electricity.
In addition, the European offshore wind capacity could be dramatically higher if policies amount to a big increase in demand for clean hydrogen produced by offshore wind.
Meanwhile, China is also expected to play a major role in the long-term growth of offshore wind, with the aims to reduce air pollution. Such technology could be highly appreciated in China, as offshore wind farms can be built near the major population centres and then be spread around to the east and the south.
China is likely to overtake the United Kingdom and have the largest offshore wind fleet of any country, by 2025 . In fact, by 2040, the country’s offshore wind capacity is set to rise from the current 4 gigawatts to 110 gigawatts. Policies in place to meet global sustainable energy goals can further push the number to above 170 gigawatts.
Furthermore, the United States have good offshore wind resources in the northeast of the country and near demand centres along the densely populated east coast, offering a way to help diversify the country’s power mix. Also, the floating foundations increase the possibilities for harnessing wind resources off the west coast.
The promise of offshore wind is underscored by the development of floating turbines that could be deployed further out at sea. This could potentially enable offshore wind to meet the entire electricity demand of several key electricity markets including Europe, the United States and Japan several times over.
Dr Birol adds that:
More and more of that potential is coming within reach, but much work remains to be done by governments and industry for it to become a mainstay of clean energy transitions.
In fact, governments and regulators can clear the path ahead for offshore wind’s development by providing the long-term vision that will help the industry and investors to carry out all the major investments required to develop offshore wind projects and link them to power grids on land; including the careful market design; ensuring low-cost financing and regulations that recognize that the development of onshore grid infrastructure is essential to the efficient integration of power production from offshore wind.
It is added that the industry needs to continue the rapid development of such technology so that wind turbine size and power capacity keep growing, which in turn improves performance and further reduces costs, making offshore wind more competitive with gas-fired power and onshore wind.
Also, there are huge business opportunities for oil and gas sector companies to draw on their offshore expertise; an estimated 40% of the lifetime costs of an offshore wind project have significant synergies with the offshore oil and gas sector, including its construction and maintenance, establishing a market opportunity of USD 400 billion or more in Europe and China over the next two decades.
Earlier this month, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced $28 million for a total of 13 projects to advance wind energy across the US. Of these, the $17 million are committed to offshore wind development. While utility-scale, land-based wind energy in the country has grown to 96 gigawatts, significant opportunities for cost reductions remain, especially in the areas of offshore wind, distributed wind, and tall wind, the US DOE explained.