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Off-shore Wind Power Project

Sushil KUMAR's picture
Independent Consultant Self Employed
  • Member since 2021
  • 1 items added with 455 views
  • Jul 14, 2021
  • 455 views

How far have we progressed in making off-shore wind projects financially viable for developing countries? Could anyone please inform me of any live example? Thanks! 

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Offhore wind is still a relatively small industry, and costs are coming down. Costs are still higher than onshore wind or solar PV - it will be a few years until the declining cost curve flattens out.

Most developing countries are located in the sunbelt (+/- 35 degrees of latitude) where 3/4 of the global population lives. The wind resource [https://globalwindatlas.info/] is generally lower in the sunbelt than at higher latitudes with the notable exception of north Africa.

The sunbelt is where most of the growth in population, energy consumption and emissions is occuring. Here there are no cold winters and the summer-winter sunshine ratio is close to unity. Seasonal storage will not be much needed.

For these reasons, developing countries are expected to depend more heavily on solar than wind. At higher latitudes, the reverse applies.

Off shore wind is a little different than land systems. Once the basic infrastructure gets figured out the clear open energy that keeps flowing day and night makes the biggest difference. In the long run off shore wind is a clear winner. 

Ya, I'm afraid I agree with Charles' general answer: the things that will make it viable for developing nations are the same things that ever make it work anywhere.  This ultimately gets us back to the same place we begin (and end up) in any discussion around building industrial capacity and fostering technology transfer for the developing world.

That said, if we want to consider angles that might give some LCOE advantage (which is really the bottom line everywhere) I think it's important to break out the various Capex and installation categories individually:

1) Manufacture - The more that's local, the better.  But if it's not at scale, it'll be an expensive vanity project that won't make it through the valley of death.  One country supplying a region (or continent) could work.  Workforce development will be needed.

2) Installation - It takes a lot of expensive maritime infrastructure to install an offshore project.  If you can't spread that cost over many projects, it takes your initial cost to the moon.  So how can this need synergize with those of other industries to create an infrastructure cluster that can support several sectors?  There's also the question of workforce development here too.

3) Ops/Maintenance - Similar to #2, if a lower scale.  Many installers will become operations workers.  This requires a minimum amount of permanent maritime infrastructure, so you can't just rent the installation fleet and watch it sail away without having something else in place.

4) Transmission - I'd separate transmission into its own category for analysis, since this potentially solves other grid problems and thus might be funded from other pots of money at least partially on that basis alone.  Especially if built in a way that helps strengthen the grid across international borders, creating pathways for all manner of renewable energy market opportunities.  (For example, just because you built a big transmission line offshore doesn't mean it can't be used to move around electrons from terrestrial projects as well.  Think: Africa's offshore fiber rings for telecom).

5) Regulatory - Burying a project in bureaucracy is equally bad everywhere.  Enough said.

6) Sector Corruption - Think corruption doesn't hold back projects in the US?  Think again.  If you're coming up against existing companies/players who don't like wind, it'll end up looking every bit as ugly as Cape Wind did.

In sum, I'd say that the key problems for the developing world revolve around the question of existing (or lack of) necessary infrastructure base (sound familiar?).  That's probably the most important leverage point to work on to equalize the opportunity here.  Sure, you could ship everything there from China or India, and rent someone's big fleet to install it (which is actually an opportunity: capitalize and rent out such a fleet, but base it in the developing world!), but you could still get hung up on Maintenance infrastructure and Transmission as additional Capex hits.  Everywhere that Offshore Wind expands, this is an issue.  The developing world is no exception.

 

To date, offshore wind projects have primarily been constructed in waters of developed countries--Europe in the early days, and now Asia and other parts of the world. In the early days, the technology and business was still to be proven, which meant offshore wind needed robust electricity markets for customers, and incentives for a technology not cost-effective at the time. Floating offshore wind, which has even more potential than conventional fixed offshore wind, is now proving its economic viability. Floating wind has higher capacity factors and less NIMBY, which are both good signs. As fixed and floating wind continue to lower their Levelized Cost of Energy, incentives won't be needed, a greater variety of markets will be available, and developing countries will benefit from the process.

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