​ IRENA: Technological advances in offshore wind significant

The latest report Innovation Outlook: Offshore Wind of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) anticipates that offshore wind capacity could grow from 13 GW in 2015 to 400 GW by 2045. The report predicts that offshore wind power will progress past today’s mostly commercial technology, to become an important component of the global energy mix over the next three decades. 

Technological advancements have reduced costs and driven market expansion for wind power. More attention is now being paid to offshore applications which can access high wind resources sites.

Forecasted innovations

The report finds the introduction of technological advances, such as next-generation turbines with larger rotors, and advances in electrical transmission, as particularly significant. Typical modern offshore wind turbines have a 6 MW capacity, with rotor diameters that reach to around 150 meters, but developments in blade and drivetrain technology are expected enable even larger turbines with higher power ratings — resulting in a lower levelized cost of electricity. The report anticipates commercialisation of 10 MW turbines in the 2020s, and the 2030s could see commercialised 15 MW turbines.

“Floating foundations for wind farms, are a radical innovation that could open significant new markets in deep waters,” says Francisco Boshell, a renewable energy analyst at IRENA. “We’re already seeing advancements in that area, with several pilot projects underway. The world’s first floating wind farm, a 30 MW wind farm in Scotland to be operational by 2017, will be located in water more than 100 metres deep.”

Innovations in technology, available sites’ characteristics, market scale and competition strategies, and decreasing financing risk, is expected to lower the average levelized cost of electricity of offshore wind farms from USD 170/MWh to USD 95/MWh by 2030 and USD 74/MWh by 2045. Impressive price developments have already been seen in 2015 and 2016, for projects to be commissioned for 2020, and the winning bid for the first two phases of Borssele offshore wind farm in the Netherlands was around USD 80/MWh.

Read the full report on IRENA’s website.

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