Across coastlines and continental shelves, the policies and projects to scale offshore wind are falling into place. What follows is a temperature check of the latest reporting, major issues, and developments related to the industry in Asia, North America, and Europe.
The United States
The Biden administration is planning to aggressively expand offshore wind energy capacity in the United States with as many as seven new offshore lease sales to be held by 2025 in a move that was announced last week by US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. She said that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is exploring leasing sales along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Meanwhile, domestic private sector investment in offshore wind will soar to $109 billion by 2030. The projection represents an increase of 40% from the previous industry-wide projects just two years ago. The White House projects that meeting this goal could reduce carbon dioxide emissions while creating 77,000 jobs in the United States alone.
“By the end of the decade, President Biden wants the country to install thousands of offshore wind turbines capable of generating 30 gigawatts of power. That’d be like moving all of New England’s power plants into the ocean,” said Miriam Wasser, an energy reporter at the NPR affiliate WBUR.
Jonah Margulis, senior vice president of US operations for offshore wind developer Aker Offshore Wind, said, “This level of commitment and transparency is unprecedented for the US and serves to increase confidence for the supply chain to make the required investments. The 30 GW by 2030 target is just the beginning of the offshore wind industry in the US, as it sets a path to 110 GW by 2050, with a significant portion of that in floating wind. We are very optimistic.”
With offshore wind one of the first “digitally native” asset-heavy industries, Margulis added, “Driving out inefficiencies in operations and maintenance is a significant part of the cost reduction we anticipate for floating wind, and we foresee using digital tools for real-time monitoring, allowing planned maintenance activities and environmental assessments.”
He said that this could result in a cost reduction of approximately 15% from today’s levels.
Europe and the UK
In a major blow to the fast-growing North Sea offshore wind market (not to mention consumers relying on reasonable power bills), the actual winds on the North Sea have stopped blowing. Sophie Mellor of Fortune called the situation “especially acute in the UK, where wind is currently providing only 7% of the country’s energy makeup—a steep drop from the 25% it generated on average across 2020.”
The good news: The North Sea doldrums shouldn’t last forever, and offshore wind capacity has seen 2% growth each year, according to the global research and consultancy business Wood Mackenzie. With better technology, development plans, and placement, offshore wind farms are operating at a much higher level.
Speed bumps in Germany: While the offshore industry met expansion targets for 2020, no new offshore turbines have been or will be installed in 2021, making this the first year without offshore wind capacity expansion in Germany in more than 10 years. It’s not for a lack of interest.
Elsewhere on the continent, wind permitting is a major discussion as Europe’s major economies grapple with the best approach to scale offshore wind and other renewables, including land-based wind, to meet aggressive, EU-mandated renewables targets while minimizing environmental impacts and costs.
China could be on the verge of catching the UK as the world’s biggest offshore wind market, data from sector association RenewableUK showed last month.
Meanwhile, Japan is picking up the pace in offshore wind development, according to reporting from IHS Market. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) announced initiatives to speed up the development of offshore wind projects in a bid to meet targets setting higher renewable proportions in Japan’s power mix by 2030.
This is on the heels of a series of pledges last year from leaders in Tokyo to develop 10 GW of offshore wind power by 2030 and 30-45 GW by 2040. According to IHS Markit, “An increasing number of domestic and foreign firms are showing an appetite for a Japanese offshore wind sector that could attract tens of billions of dollars in investments in the coming years.”
Further south, the nascent offshore wind market in waters belonging to the Philippines is attracting investor attention from the UK and Europe, while researchers in Indonesia, long considered a marginal wind speed zone but a massive potential market, are honing in on three promising areas for development where seasonal winds can be strong: Aceh, Southern Java, and Southern Papua.