Could 2022 be Offshore Wind’s Year Of Acceptance and Growth?

Highlights :

  • Offshore wind is set to take on the mantle from Onshore wind, as costs continue to drop and better predictability of generation key.
  • India, which has very limited offshore wind ambitions for now, could find  the situation changing rapidly as costs drop.

In our year end specials, we caught up on two key developments in the offshore wind space. ‘Farms’ located over 70 kms from shore, in China and in Europe, supplied their first power, and in the new year, are expected to go online formally. That these are located in two of the world’s key regions for offshore wind, the recently arrived China, and the well established Europeans, is no surprise.

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While China has been catching up on Wind energy after sweeping away all with its solar dominance, for European manufacturers, global leaders in wind energy, offshore is almost their last chance to maintain leadership status, or suffer the fate of their solar counterparts in the early years of this century.

In China, the plant about to go fully operational is the 300 MW Jiangsu Dafeng H8-2. It has done so just in time to catch the deadline for China’s feed-in tariffs, ending this year. Located in the North Jiangsu Sea, about 72 kilometers from the coast, Jiangsu Dafeng H8-2 consists of 38 4.5 MW wind turbines and 20 6.45 MW wind turbines. It is China’s first project to use offshore high-voltage stations to facilitate long-distance power transmission.

Funded and developed by China Three Gorges Renewables Co., the alternative energy arm of China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG), which runs the massive 22500 MW Three Gorges Dam Hydro project.

The European project that is more well known is the UK based and Orsted run Hornsea 2 project, that, at 1.32 GW, pips the Hornsea 1 project (1.2 GW) to largest offshore wind project in the world. Located 89 km from the east coast of the United Kingdom with 165 8 MW wind turbines from Siemens Gamesa, Hornsea 2 comes at a critical time for the UK, and Europe per se, when the continent is grappling with high power prices caused by gas shortages and the closure and shutdowns of nuclear plants across Germany and France particularly.

While much like the spike in power through energy exchanges both India and China saw in September/October this year, power rates have spiked due to winter demand and poorly planned shutdowns in Europe, the continent is ahead of many others when it comes to the conviction that meeting green targets will involve a cost.

And increasingly, that makes offshore wind energy a more viable option, despite its relatively higher costs as compared to solar or wind energy. Experts place that gap at around 15% vis a vis onshore wind, and upto 30% vis a vis solar power.

Offshore Wind Advantages

Success with large projects such as the Hornsea Project/s or the Jiangsu Dafeng in China will make a real difference to the many other advantages (and disadvantages) of offshore wind. In fact, Hornsea 3 with a 3 GW capacity has already been approved by the UK government. With their higher capacities linked to booth availability of acreage as well as turbine capacity, Offshore wind could be filling in for baseload demand in key regions, when aligned with storage.

First, we have the costs. Offshore wind costs higher than onshore wind due to the simple fact that building anything on the high seas to last, will cost more than building it on land. Add to that higher transmission costs to connect them to the grid, and you have their biggest extra costs captured.

More Dependable

On the other hand, the advantages of offshore are becoming more and more obvious now, that costs are in a range considered acceptable in many markets. For one, the power they generate can be a lot more consistent and dependable, as compared to onshore wind or even solar.

NIMBY, Environmental 

Offshore wind turbines that are as much as 50 kms or more out to sea also take care of the NIMBY (Not in my backyard) phenomenon of Onshore wind, or even Solar. Importantly, the distance also cuts down a key environmental issue of bird fatalities from the turbines. Even noise pollution, that has been getting some traction for onshore wind farms, is not an issue for offshore turbines.

With technology improvements continuing to cut down on the cost side, it is no surprise that offshore wind farms located within say, 5 kms of some coast lines, have been competitive with onshore wind or solar.  But even the longer distance, if required, is fast becoming manageable.

That means even countries like India, which have struggled to kick start offshore wind, could see success sooner than later now, as challenges of domestic sourcing and availability of prime land onshore drives up costs for solar and onshore wind respectively.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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