WHERE ARE THE WINDMILLS GOING: IS IT ALL HOT AIR?
The International Energy Agency(IEA)1 claims in its October special report that offshore wind could generate more than 15 times today’s global electricity demand. “Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3 per cent of global power generation, but its potential is vast”; to become a $1 trillion business by 20401. Offshore wind power will expand impressively over the next two decades, boosting efforts to decarbonise energy systems and reduce air pollution as it becomes a growing part of electricity supply.
“The Engineer”2 commenting on the Report “highlights the vast untapped wind resources around the world;” and in the most comprehensive study on the subject to date, offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 TWh per year worldwide, with about 36,000 TWh of this easily accessible in coastal waters no deeper than 60m.
Rapid progress is being driven by: –
- technical advances: more efficient, larger turbines, drone maintenance, floating foundations and sheer scale producing falling costs;
- supportive government policies.
“Europe has pioneered offshore wind technology, and the region is positioned to be the powerhouse of its future development”1. There is about 20 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity in the EU currently, set to rise to nearly 130 gigawatts by 2040. This could jump to to around 180 gigawatts by 2040, if the European Union becomes carbon-neutral, and offshore wind is it’s largest single source of electricity. Governments and regulators need clear visions and objectives to enable the potential to be delivered through investment.
While Europe is making big strides China is also set to play a major role in offshore wind’s long-term growth. Driven by efforts to reduce air pollution, the technology is particularly attractive because offshore wind farms can be built near the major population centres spread around the east and south of the country. The IEA expects China to have the world’s greatest offshore wind capacity by 2025 overtaking the UK and rising from 4 gigawatts today to 110 gigawatts by 2040.
Europe and North America can meet electricity demand, possibly 3x over, from shallow coastal waters; while Russian, South America and New Zealand are similar. The IEA estimates that “offshore wind is set to be competitive with fossil fuel within the next decade”, something incredible 5 years ago. “In Europe, recent auctions indicate that offshore wind will soon beat new natural gas-fired capacity on cost”. Offshore wind can be used to produce hydrogen and, as such, 1 gigawatt could produce enough gas to heat ¼ million homes. Improved energy storage and new technology will further increase capacity.
Conclusion: this is: –
- Good news for climate change3 and decarbonisation;
- Good news for electric vehicles: – item for the next Ecopush blog.
- Bad news for the nuclear power industry, (massive costs and sustainability3) and similarly the lack of sustainability of fracking in the UK.
1: IEA Report: Offshore Wind Outlook 2019: World Energy Outlook Special Report.. The report is an excerpt from World Energy Outlook 2019, which will be published in full on 13 November 2019.
2: The Engineer; October 2019.
3: Ecopush Blog:-Climate change: can i make a difference? -September 2019 and What can individuals do to reduce their carbon footprint