Offshore wind is enjoying a boom time. Policy targets, falling costs, smarter operations and more powerful wind turbines have driven its rapid adoption – initially in Europe and more recently in Asia and the US.
2019 was the best year in history for the offshore wind sector, with installed capacity now topping 29 gigawatts globally.
Europe still leads in terms of overall offshore wind capacity, but momentum has been building for some years in Asia-Pacific and the US. China recorded the highest number of new installations in 2019.
This is according to a new report by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), which also finds that offshore wind has been less affected by the global pandemic than other sections of the energy market.
GWEC expects a further 6.6 GW to be installed in 2020 – more than in the previous year – despite the downturn. The report also predicts that the sector will create 900,000 jobs over the next 10 years, suggesting that the sector could be a major contributor to a ‘green’ economic recovery.
Europe continues to lead – but Asia is biting at its heels
Today, Europe is the largest market for offshore wind, with its 22 GW making up 75% of total global installations. It’s set to continue this leadership role, targeting up to 450 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2050. This will be driven by installations in the UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, Denmark and Poland.
By 2030, China is expected to have added 52 GW of new capacity. Other markets in Asia will scale up offshore wind too, with Taiwan expected to install 5.5 GW by 2025 and an additional 10 GW by 2035. Viet Nam, Japan and South Korea are expected to install 5.2 GW, 7.2 GW and 12 GW respectively.
The roll-out of offshore wind farms in North America, meanwhile, is predicted to accelerate from around 2024. The region currently has just 30 MW of offshore wind capacity, but GWEC anticipates that it will add 23 GW by 2030. This growth will be almost completely in the US, with only 1% forecast to come from Canada.
As a result of these trends, Europe’s leadership is set to drop from 75% of global installed capacity to 48% by 2030.
Floating power rising
Technically, the expanding size and generation capacity of offshore wind turbines has contributed significantly to the attractiveness and commercial viability of these power plants in the sea.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), moving into deeper waters using floating – rather than fixed – wind turbines has the potential to meet the world’s electricity demand 11 times over by 2040. For this to happen, though, costs will have to fall and governments will need to engage with developing technologies and approaches.
The GWEC report suggests that at least 6.2 GW of floating wind will be installed over the next decade, building on the 65.7 MW that exists today.
At present, the UK, Portugal and Japan lead the market in total floating installations, with South Korea, France and Norway forecast to take over the top places by 2030. GWEC expects floating wind farms to account for 6% of global new installations by the end of the decade.
Smoothing the path for the energy transition
Now considered a mature market with a growing global following, offshore wind is set to become a key pathway for the energy transition – and a $1 trillion industry by 2040.
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