A new report out by Pike Research tells us what many of us have been expecting already — offshore wind power is reaching a critical “this-makes-sense” (or “this-makes-cents”) point and is about to boom.
The report finds that total installed wind power generation capacity will increase 17 times over the next 6 years.
It is projected to increase from 4.1 GW of installed capacity in 2011 to 70.1 GW in 2017.
“Some of the world’s best wind resources are located offshore,” says senior analyst Peter Asmus. “Often, these high-potential areas are in shallow ocean waters relatively close to urban population centers. Interest in freshwater offshore wind is also picking up, especially in the Great Lakes in the United States and Canadian Midwest.”
Offshore wind power has been essentially limited to Europe thus far, but the U.S. is working on a couple of big offshore wind projects and a few other large countries are as well — China, India, and South Korea. These Asian countries are really looking to dive into this realm (yes, a little pun intended).
Obstacles to Offshore Wind.. & Solutions
Of course, offshore wind isn’t without its hurdles. Here are the two big ones, and reasons why it looks like they won’t be hurdles forever.
While offshore wind resources are greater and steadier than onshore, and located near large population centers (most of the world lives in coastal areas), the costs of building offshore turbines is greater.
However, part of this is that we have been trying to essentially transplant turbines built for onshore wind offshore. A lot of work is going into creating wind turbines more appropriate to the need, though. For example, “[t]he Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) recently brought together E.ON (a major energy company in Europe), BP, power systems and engineering experts at Rolls-Royce, and the University of Strathclyde for a project called ‘Helm Wind.’ The project’s goal: create offshore wind turbines made for offshore wind, so that wind energy costs can be cut and electricity can be cheaper (and cleaner).” According to this group’s research, offshore wind energy costs could be cut 30% or more.
Another obstacle is transmission. But, even in the U.S., investors and developers are already tackling this. Google announced it was investing millions into The Atlantic Wind Connection project last year, which includes “350 miles of transmission off the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Virginia to tap into gigantic off-shore wind potential.” This offshore wind superhighway “will enable the connection of up to 6,000 MW of offshore wind turbines … equivalent to 60% of the wind energy that was installed in the entire country last year and enough to serve approximately 1.9 million households.”
China, India, and South Korea are tackling this issue as well.
- World’s Largest Offshore Wind Turbine to be Constructed in North Sea
- New Giant Offshore Wind Farm, Humber Gateway, Moves Forward in UK
- Offshore Wind Power around the World
- Offshore Wind Energy Cheaper than Nuclear Energy, EU Climate Chief Says
Photo via Wessex Archaeology