The offshore wind sector has been steadily gaining ground, particularly in the UK. But now its growth appears to be going global, with the latest report from the Energy Industries Council (EIC) predicting that it will increase significantly in the coming years.
According to the report, global offshore wind capacity is expected to increase to as much as 200GW of operational capacity by 2030. The lower end of its estimate is 164GW operational capacity by the end of the decade.
The UK, along with countries such as China, Germany, Taiwan, and the Netherlands, were named as the markets that have “further strengthened their positions” in 2019, due to the project pipelines being brought forward across these nations.
Lara Juergens, senior analyst at EIC and the report’s author, commented: “The sector is expected to see strong growth throughout the next decades, not only in existing ‘mature’ markets, but equally in emerging ones.”
She named Poland, Japan, Vietnam and Ireland as markets that have “gained significant interest from developers and the supply chain alike” in the past year.
However, while the report is broadly positive for the offshore wind sector, it also raised concerns over the ability of the supply chain to meet the rising worldwide demand. In particular, vessels, skilled labour and fabrication shipyards were named as potential pinch points.
Earlier this month, an article for Recharge suggested that the UK may need to find a way to build floating wind turbines more quickly if it’s to meet the surging demand in this renewable energy sector.
It noted that one of the key factors driving the faster uptake of floating offshore turbines is likely to be the government’s decision on whether to include floating wind in its next round of contracts for difference (CfD) auctions.
The reason that the government is considering going in this direction is because fixed foundation wind farms are increasingly running into difficulties with their construction, such as “adverse environmental impacts”, the news provider explained.
It cited the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as saying: “Should such risks materialise, it is likely that the commercial deployment of floating offshore wind will be needed sooner than previously anticipated and at greater levels, particularly during the 2030s.”
This is all part of the government’s ambition of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Using floating offshore wind turbines means that the wind farms can be located further offshore, in waters that are more than 60m deep. If the decision is taken to focus on a greater capacity from these kinds of wind turbines, it could open up new areas for development for energy generation.
One stumbling block remaining for the technology, however, is its relatively high cost compared to fixed foundation offshore wind, which has managed to reduce its costs significantly in recent years. Floating wind turbines, however, are still more expensive at present.
Gunnar Herzig, managing director of the World Forum Offshore Wind (WFO), told the news provider that the UK is well placed to “lead the commercial-scale roll out of floating offshore wind”.
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