Offshore wind could become a cornerstone of the world’s power supply as steep cost reductions and improved technology unleash the potential of the green energy source, said the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Renewables replacing fossil fuel is crucial to meet a globally-agreed goal of limiting temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius this century and the expansion of offshore wind could avoid 5-7 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions from the power sector globally, said the IEA.
Power generated from wind turbines at sea only accounts for 0.3% of global electricity generation today, said the IEA in what it called “the most comprehensive” study of offshore wind to date.
“(But) the potential is huge,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol told Reuters in the capital of Denmark – the country where the first offshore turbines were installed in 1991 and which last year produced 15% of its electricity from offshore wind.
Based on current and proposed policies, capacity is set to increase 15-fold over the next two decades, turning it into a $1-trillion business, according to the IEA.
He likened offshore wind to two other game-changers in the energy system: the shale revolution and the rise of solar PV and said that offshore wind had the potential to deliver similar steep cost reductions.
Birol said he expected the average generation cost for global offshore wind to halve to $60 per megawatt hour already in five years, Birol said. This reduction would be driven especially by bigger turbines, some measuring almost as high as the Eiffel tower, and lower financing costs.
In Europe, offshore wind will soon beat new natural gas-fired capacity on cost and be on a par with solar photovoltaics (PV) and onshore wind while in China, it is set to become competitive with new coal-fired capacity around 2030, according to the IEA.
However, Birol cautioned that large investments into onshore grid infrastructure and real political action were needed.
“If the governments are serious about their climate policies and climate neutrality they have to have dedicated policies in order to foster green technologies like offshore wind”.
While the green transition is increasingly taking over the global political agenda, there is a growing disconnect between climate ambitions and real-life emissions trends as energy-related CO2 emissions reached a historic high last year.
The UK today has the biggest capacity but by around 2025, China is likely to have the largest offshore wind fleet. The industry is also growing in markets like the United States, Taiwan and Japan.
Denmark’s Orsted (ORSTED.CO) is the world’s biggest developer of offshore wind, while Siemens Gamesa (SGREN.MC) and MHI Vestas, a joint venture between Vestas (VWS.CO) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T), are the largest makers of wind turbines employed at sea.
Source: World Economic Forum
Turning Europe into a giant wind farm could power the entire world
On windy days, Europe’s growing number of wind farms can run entire nations on clean energy. But what if there were turbines in every potential location? Scientists have calculated that in such a scenario – however unlikely – Europe could generate enough onshore wind power to satisfy the entire world’s needs.
Mapping the wind
Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK and Aarhus University in Denmark have developed techniques to map the total potential of onshore wind energy across the European continent. The research suggests that Europe could produce 100 times more energy than it currently does from onshore wind farms.
The map below shows that countries in Eastern Europe offer the greatest potential for generating additional onshore wind energy, with Norway and Iceland also presenting the opportunity to maximize renewable energy production.
Image: University of Sussex, Aarhus University
The research team used digital wind atlases to provide finely detailed information on wind patterns across Europe. Armed with this data they identified that 46% of the European landmass would be suitable for the installation of wind turbines, and that’s after excluding urban areas, military sites and other landscapes unsuitable for reaping the wind.
The study estimates that more than 11 million additional wind turbines could, theoretically, be installed over almost 5 million square kilometres of suitable terrain.
The report concludes that if this potential was fully exploited, Europe could provide the whole planet with all the energy it will require as far into the future as 2050.
However, we should note the use of the word ‘theoretically’. The research team is quick to point out that this is not a proposal, but an indication of the untapped power of onshore wind capacity.
“Obviously, we are not saying that we should install turbines in all the identified sites but the study does show the huge wind power potential right across Europe which needs to be harnessed if we’re to avert a climate catastrophe,” said co-author Benjamin Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Sussex.
The decline of coal
For two weeks in the early summer of 2019, the UK ran entirely on energy produced without burning coal. On those sunny, breezy days in May, the output from renewable sources allowed the UK National Grid to shut down its coal-fired power stations and pump wind and solar energy into the homes and businesses of consumers.
The UK’s reliance on coal has declined dramatically and its government has announced plans to shut down all of its remaining coal-fired power stations by 2025.
A global shift to renewables
China and India are installing renewable energy capacity on a vast scale.
China aims to increase renewable generating capacity by 38% in 2020 (compared to 2015 levels) with a total investment of $361bn, according to UN data. In recent years India has exceeded its targets for installing renewable capacity. In 2016 it overshot its target by 43%.
Looking ahead, India is planning to install 175 gigawatts of capacity in 2022, according to the UN. China is cancelling plans for new coal-fired power stations and India is expected to follow suit by 2022.
Source: World Economic Forum
The world’s largest offshore wind farm is nearly complete. It can power 1 million homes
The world’s largest offshore wind farm is taking shape off the east coast of Britain, a landmark project that demonstrates one way to combat climate change at scale.
Located 120 kilometers (75 miles) off England’s Yorkshire coast, Hornsea One will produce enough energy to supply 1 million UK homes with clean electricity when it is completed in 2020.
The project spans an area that’s bigger than the Maldives or Malta, and is located farther out to sea than any other wind farm. It consists of 174 seven-megawatt wind turbines, with towers that are each nearly 100 meters tall. The blades cover an area bigger than the London Eye observation wheel as they turn.
Just a single rotation of one of the turbines can power the average home for an entire day, according to Stefan Hoonings, senior project manager at Orsted (DOGEF), the Danish energy company that built the farm.
The project will take the United Kingdom closer to hitting its target of deriving a third of the country’s electricity from offshore wind by 2030.
It’s the kind of project that can help governments achieve environmental targets set out at this week’s United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. Some 77 countries committed at the summit to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, but climate activists including Greta Thunberg say that major emitters must do more to mitigate rising temperatures.
The Hornsea One proejct will produce enough energy to power up to 1 million UK homes.
Renewable energy will be critical to achieving those climate goals.
Despite the commitments made as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, global emissions continued to rise in 2018, and global energy demand grew at its fastest pace in a decade, according to the International Energy Agency. Coal use in power generation accounted for a third of total CO2 emissions, the IEA said.
The trends demonstrate the need for additional clean energy solutions. In Britain, three more phases of the Hornsea project are planned. The share of renewables in the global energy mix is small but growing. Eventually a tipping point may be reached. After 2035, renewables are projected to make up more than 50% of generation, according to McKinsey.
Wind power is a big part of the solution. According to the IEA, electricity generation from wind grew by an estimated 12% in 2018, keeping its position as the largest renewable technology that doesn’t involve water.
The company behind Hornsea
Orsted has built 25 offshore wind farms across Europe, the United States and Asia.
It changed its name from Danish Oil and Natural Gas in 2017 to reflect its transformation to a green energy company. The company has cut its use of coal by 73% since 2006 and plans to be coal free by 2023.
The United Kingdom is its biggest market for offshore wind and Orsted will have invested £12 billion ($15 billion) in the sector by 2020.
With a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts, Hornsea One will generate nearly twice the power of Orsted’s Walney Extension — the current largest offshore wind farm in the world, located in the Irish Sea.
Equipment used by Orsted crews at work in the North Sea.
Hornsea Two is under construction and has potential to meet the electricity needs of up to 1.6 million homes a year, according to Orsted. Hornsea Three could provide electricity to more than 2 million homes.
There are now 37 offshore wind farms operating in the United Kingdom, said Orsted. That makes Britain the biggest offshore wind market in the world.
Source: London (CNN Business)
The Dudgeon offshore wind farm
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