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Floating turbines could provide enough electricity to power the US, Europe and Japan, says IEA

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Some of the world’s largest economies could completely rely on floating wind farms to provide their electricity in the future, according to the International Energy Agency. 

In the IEA’s Offshore Wind Outlook 2019 report, the organisation claimed that floating turbines, which could be placed further out to sea, where winds were stronger and there was less of a need to find shallow waters, could revolutionise the offshore wind power market. It said that the technology could produce more than enough clean energy to power some of the world’s largest economies.

“Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3% of global power generation, but its potential is vast,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.

“More and more of that potential is coming within reach, but much work remains to be done by governments and industry for it to become a mainstay of clean energy transitions.”

Currently only one floating wind farm is in operation, Hywind Scotland, which was developed by Statoil having been commissioned in October 2017. That farm has just five floating turbines with a total capacity of 30 MW, and there’s a reason why it’s the only one currently operational – the technology to deploy floating turbines remains expensive.

That is set to change, however, according to the IEA. “In the past decade, two major areas of technological innovation have been game-changers in the energy system by substantially driving down costs: the shale revolution and the rise of solar PV,” said Dr Birol.

“And offshore wind has the potential to join their ranks in terms of steep cost reduction.”

There are already ways the IEA has thought of in order to reduce the cost of offshore wind farms, with it noting that there are huge business opportunities for oil and gas sector companies to draw on their offshore expertise. An estimated 40% of the lifetime costs of an offshore wind project, including construction and maintenance, have significant synergies with the offshore oil and gas sector. That translates into a market opportunity of USD 400 billion or more in Europe and China over the next two decades.

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