Installed capacity for wind energy could hit 1 terawatt (TW) by the end of this year and grow sevenfold by 2032, according to analysts tracking the sector.
That’s enough to simultaneously power 10 billion 100-watt lightbulbs, according to the Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences.
The outlook comes as the global offshore wind market, led by China and European countries, continues to mature and incorporate technological innovations while strengthening supply chains, Wood Mackenzie said in a market outlook April 11.
“After needing more than 40 years to reach one TW of installations, the wind industry will reach the next TW of installations within the next eight years, a significant acceleration of growth,” said Luke Lewandowski, research director for Wood Mackenzie.
Offshore wind development has taken off as the world turns to renewable energy to help reduce global emissions. Though the sector has faced inflation and supply chain pressure in recent years, similar to others in the energy industry, developers are moving forward with projects of all sizes and building up nascent floating wind projects.
The efforts are backed by clean energy investors and incentives from governments with decarbonization strategies in place for net-zero emissions ambitions.
Within 10 years, Wood Mackenzie forecasts offshore wind will account for a 26% share of the world’s total power generation capacity.
While analysts forecast offshore wind installed capacity is expected to be added in 30 countries in the next decade, more than 80% of that will come from Europe and China, which will dominate growth.
China’s lockdown policy was mostly to blame for the region’s 21% year-over-year (yoy) drop in new grid-connected capacity in 2023, according to Lewandowski; however, projects unable to connect last year are expected to boost this year’s outlook for the country.
The country is aiming for 1,200 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar power capacity by 2030.
“The China wind power market will rebound strongly in 2023, with developers nearly doubling the amount of annual capacity yoy, on the back of a record year for new wind turbine orders in the country,” Wood Mackenzie said. “Over the 10-year outlook, annual capacity additions in China will average 80 GW and account for 50% of new capacity globally.”
Plans for what could become the world’s largest offshore wind farm are underway in Guangdong province’s Chaozhou in China. Dwarfing the 20-GW, 7,000-plus turbine Jiuquan Wind Power Base in China, the planned 43.3-GW wind farm will be located off the city of Chaozhou’s coast on the Taiwan Strait. It will have the capacity to power about 13 million homes.
The country is also pursuing floating wind projects. PowerChina started construction in December 2022 on China’s first large-scale floating wind power pilot project. With an installed capacity of 200,000 kilowatts (kw) — or 200 megawatts (MW) — the first phase of the project is scheduled to be connected to the grid by year-end 2025.
The second phase, with an installed capacity of 800,000 kw, is set to begin operations by year-end 2027, the company said.
China is also making waves on the technology front, having unveiled the gigantic H260-18 MW offshore wind turbine developed by CSSC Haizhuang in January. The turbine has the industry’s largest rotor diameter at 260 m with blades able to sweep through an area of 53,000 sq m — the equivalent of seven standard football fields, the company said on its website.
“Under full wind speed, 44.8 kilowatt hours of electricity can be generated per revolution, and a single turbine can generate more than 74 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year, delivers enough annual power for 40,000 households for a year,” according to CSSCC. It “reduces coal consumption by 25,000 tons and the emission of carbon dioxide by 61,000 tons yearly, which has significant effect of energy saving.”
The large rotors generate more power while cutting cost because fewer positions are needed.
Like China, other parts of the world are expected to see a near-term boost in installed capacity as inflation and supply chain disruption delayed more than 3 GW of projects into 2023, according to Wood Mackenzie.
“For the U.S., developers await tax credit eligibility guidance from the U.S. Treasury, with the ongoing uncertainty impacting near-term installations,” Lewandowski said. “However, with policy clarity, approval and investment in transmission projects and development of the offshore market’s nascent supply chain, annual additions will intensify and average 20 GW per year from 2026 through 2032.”
The first commercial-scale offshore wind projects are expected to begin operating in the U.S. this year, part of a pipeline of projects intended to generate about 40 GW.
Commercial operations for Ørsted and Eversource’s jointly owned 12-turbine South Fork Wind offshore New York is scheduled to become operational by year-end 2023. That would be followed by the 62-turbine Vineyard Wind, the nation’s first utility-scale wind project offshore Massachusetts, developed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables.
In Europe, analysts see more than 343 GW of offshore and onshore capacity being added in the next 10 years, with offshore wind accounting for 39% of the new capacity.
The Africa and Middle East region are expected to add 72 GW in total capacity over the 10-year forecast period, Wood Mackenzie said, driven in part by green hydrogen demand. Electricity produced from wind energy is used by electrolyzers to split water, creating hydrogen.
Development in the Africa and Middle East region “remains modest in the near-term but will surpass the 5 GW annual mark in 2025 and continue momentum through 2032, with an average annual growth rate of 42% for the forecast period,” according to the outlook.
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