The offshore wind industry could grow from just 13 GW in 2015 to 100 GW by 2030 with the right innovations in technology and continued cost reductions, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Launched on Monday at the World Wind Energy Conference in Tokyo, the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) new report, Innovation Outlook: Offshore Wind, outlined the future developments that it believes will drive an offshore wind power boom over the next years, including specific technological advancements and further cost declines.
Future Technological Innovations In The Offshore Wind Sector
“Offshore wind power is poised to become a leading power generation technology in a decarbonised global economy,” explained Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA. “Now that onshore wind power is cost-competitive with conventional power generation technologies, more attention is shifting to offshore applications, characterised by high technical power generation potential.”
Offshore wind has the potential to be a game-changing source of renewable electricity in a climate which is focused so heavily on transitioning to a low-carbon economy. The authors of the report open their analysis by explaining that “Offshore wind farms can be built quickly, at gigawatt-scale, close to densely populated coastal areas” subsequently making “offshore wind an important addition to the portfolio of technologies to decarbonise the energy sector in a cost-effective manner.” Further, and relating specifically to offshore wind’s opportunity to “decarbonise the energy sector in a cost-effective manner” is the role that advances in wind power technology will have on cost reductions and further expansion into new energy markets. Offshore wind energy costs have already fallen by more than 30% in the 15 years since the first offshore wind farm was opened, with the levelized cost of electricity for offshore wind falling from $240/MWh in 2001 to approximately $170/MWh by the end of 2015. Offshore wind is further benefiting from its onshore cousins existing success, with more and more attention being paid to offshore wind technology development that are intended to drive down the cost of offshore wind and make it a better option for more and more locales.
Electricity cost reduction elements for projects commissioned in 2001-2015
However, the authors of the report note that, despite existing cost reductions, if the offshore wind industry is to continue its impressive development gains then it must continue to reduce costs, easing its integration into onshore grid systems while simultaneously expanding its potential markets, while preserving its focus on the environment, health, and safety. Specifically, IRENA believes that technology innovation will prove a key element in further cost reductions, alongside “reducing the cost of finance and savings through competition and other supply chain levers.” Some of the potential innovation prospects outlined by the IRENA report include:
- Ongoing development in blade and drivetrain technology
- Simplification of offshore installation
- The development of floating foundations
- Development and innovation of offshore electrical interconnection
Of particular importance from the new report is IRENA’s conclusion that wind power must become the dominant power generation technology by 2030 if we are to ensure a complete decarbonization of the global economy. Specifically, IRENA believes offshore wind can account for 100 GW of capacity by 2030. If policies were adopted to double renewable energy in the global energy mix, these numbers could be even higher — 1990 GW of total installed wind capacity by 2030, with offshore wind providing 280 GW.
Possible Paths for Global Power Generation
“The potential for offshore wind is enormous, but to realise it, governments must support technology innovation, and implement mechanisms to reduce technical risk and finance costs,” said Stefan Gsaenger, Secretary-General of the World Wind Energy Association. “This report from IRENA helps lay the foundation for this needed action.”