With production costs falling and green power policies on the rise, wind energy could soon be positioned to meet the world’s demand for electricity 18 times over, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded in an analysis released last week.
“What’s more, the winds of change are blowing at high speeds. Global offshore wind capacity could increase 15-fold and attract around US$1 trillion (£800 billion) of cumulative investment by as soon as 2040,” The Independent reports. “The IEA says this boom is being driven by the declining costs in installations, supportive government policies, and ‘remarkable technological progress’ with components such as larger turbines and floating foundations.”
Europe has led the industry’s recent gains, with nearly 30% annual growth from 2010 to 2018, and could see wind become its main source of electric power over the next 20 years, the IEA says. But the agency also sees 150 offshore wind projects now in development around the world, with China accounting for the biggest capacity increase in 2018.
“By around 2025, China is likely to have the largest offshore wind fleet of any country, overtaking the United Kingdom,” the report said. “China’s offshore wind capacity is set to rise from four gigawatts today to 110 gigawatts by 2040. Policies designed to meet global sustainable energy goals could push that even higher, to above 170 gigawatts.”
And even then, “today’s offshore wind market doesn’t even come close to tapping the full potential,” the Paris-based agency states. “With high-quality resources available in most major markets, offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420,000 terawatt-hours per year worldwide. This is more than 18 times global electricity demand today.”
In the EU, offshore wind capacity currently stands at nearly 20 GW, and would rise to 130 GW by 2040. If the continent adopted a carbon-neutral target, that total would rise to 180 GW. But “an even more ambitious vision—in which government policies drive an increase in demand for clean hydrogen produced by offshore wind—could push European offshore wind capacity ‘dramatically higher’,” The Independent explains.
“In this scenario, electricity generated by wind turbines would be used to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, with the hydrogen then being stored and ultimately blended with normal gas supplies to heat houses or fuel vehicles. It could also be recycled to generate more clean electricity.”
The IEA points to floating wind turbines, with the potential for deployment farther out at sea, as the most promising new technology development for the industry. “In theory, [floating turbines] could enable offshore wind to meet the entire electricity demand of several key electricity markets several times over, including Europe, the United States, and Japan,” the report stated.