By the end of 2012, all installed wind turbines worldwide were generating more than 400 TWh per annum, representing an installed capacity of 240 GW. In 2011, there was an increase in installed wind power capacity of 21%, making the wind energy industry one of the fastest growing industries in the world. According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the average annual market growth in wind energy will be about 8% over the next five years, bringing it to nearly 500 GW of total installed capacity.
The potential of offshore wind is enormous. It could meet Europe’s energy demand seven times over, and the United States’ energy demand four times over. In 2012, the installed capacity of offshore wind in Europe exceeded 4.3 GW, representing approximately 10% of annual European wind energy installations. By 2020, Europe is expected to have 40 GW of installed capacity, equivalent to 4% of the EU’s electricity demand. The installed capacity will rise further towards 2030 with an expected capacity of 150 GW, meeting 14% of the EU’s electricity demand.
Even though onshore wind is now directly competitive with conventional energy sources, the real potential for the future development of the wind industry lies in offshore development. Offshore wind has a number of advantages, such as higher wind speeds and less turbulence than onshore. There is also the advantage of large-scale development near major demand centres.
The major challenge for offshore wind is to continue to bring down costs. The selection of sites for offshore wind farms in deeper waters, further from shore, with more demanding seabed conditions and higher waves, has contributed to driving up the costs faster than the development of new technology has been able to bring the costs down. Construction costs, measures to protect machinery and external surfaces from salt spray, electric cabling and grid connection are also more expensive offshore. Higher wind speeds also make the use of more robust wind turbines necessary. In addition to this, the need for suitable vessels also increases operation and maintenance costs.
However, cost reductions continue to be achieved, and this is the main reason for the confidence in offshore wind as one of the most important sources of energy in the future!