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Clean and Stable, Offshore Wind Can More Than Meet the World’s Electricity Needs


The sun doesn't shine at night and the wind doesn't blow continuously, which makes intermittency an obstacle to adding more solar and wind energy to the grid. But the IEA's recent Offshore Wind Outlook 2019 says that offshore wind is not subject to the same intermittency limitations as onshore wind and solar PV.

The IEA classifies offshore wind as a "variable baseload technology" owing to its high capacity factors and lower variability, as compared with onshore wind and solar PV. Put simply, offshore wind operates, on average, at a higher share of its maximum power output and with less fluctuations. As such, offshore wind can provide more stable power to the energy grid, just as fossil-fuelled plants do, and "has the potential to become a mainstay of the world's power supply."

"The report shows that, through its bulk production of green and affordable energy, offshore wind will be a cornerstone in the global green transition, and provides value to the energy system comparable to dispatchable plants, such as those running on coal or gas," says Ulrik Stridbæk, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at renewable energy company Ørsted. "As a baseload technology, offshore wind will play an increasingly significant role in eliminating carbon emissions and tackling climate change."

Here are five key takeaways from the report:

  1. Electricity to power the world: Offshore wind accounts for 0.3% of global electricity production today. Even if only confined to windy regions, within 60km from the shore, and in water no deeper than 60m, the worldwide offshore wind potential is up to 36,000 terawatt hours of renewable electricity a year. That would outstrip current global electricity demand of 23,000 terawatt hours. Offshore wind power could become the largest source of electricity generation in Europe after 2040.

  2. USD 1 trillion business by 2040: Offshore wind power capacity is set to expand, with the market adding 20GW* or more of offshore wind per year, by 2030. Around 40GW of capacity would need to be added each year in the 2030s to meet global climate goals.

  3. Variable baseload technology: Offshore wind is a variable renewable energy source, but it generates power at high and stable rates. Modern wind turbines make the most of available wind resources and generate electricity during almost all hours of the day and tend to produce more electricity during the winter months and monsoon season.

  4. Long term vision: Governments must set a long-term vision for offshore wind to ensure the necessary investments are made to allow the industry to grow. This will also help develop efficient supply chains in the industry, which are critical to delivering low-cost projects.

  5. Onshore grid infrastructure: The success of offshore wind will depend on well-developed onshore grid infrastructure. That is essential for efficient integration of power production from offshore wind and to avoid offshore wind energy going unused.

        Read the full report Offshore Wind Outlook 2019, which was funded by the governments of Denmark and Germany and developed in consultation with a selection of international experts including Ørsted.

        *1GW of offshore wind is enough to power just over one million households in Europe, according to calculations made by Ørsted.

        About Ørsted

        The Ørsted vision is a world that runs entirely on green energy. Ørsted develops, constructs and operates offshore and onshore wind farms, bioenergy plants and provides energy products to its customers.

        • Carbon intensity of the company's energy generation decreased by 83% in mid-2019, as compared with 2006 levels. By 2025, Ørsted will have reduced its emissions by 98% making the company's energy production virtually carbon free.

        • 83% of Ørsted's energy generation was from renewable sources as of September 2019. The target is 99% in 2025.

        • The company is committed to reducing carbon emissions from end use of its products and in its supply chain by 50 percent by 2032, as compared to 2018.

        • Ørsted is ranked the world's most sustainable energy company and fourth most sustainable company overall in the 2019 Global100 index.


        Mark Silverstone's picture
        Mark Silverstone on Nov 12, 2019 10:46 pm GMT

        The argument for nuclear is that renewables are not reliable. Either the sun doesn´t shine or the wind doesn´t blow.  I hope this report helps to put an end to the argument that renewables depend on gas for meeting energy needs.  Renewables can indeed provide clean, dependable energy to millions.  Offshore wind is key.

        Bob Meinetz's picture
        Bob Meinetz on Nov 13, 2019 7:23 am GMT

        "The argument for nuclear is that renewables are not reliable."

        Renewables are not reliable, Mark. That's a fact, not an "argument".  Both wind and solar are 100% dependent on gas, often operating in spinning reserve (wasting fuel and creating GHG emisions) just to be able to step in if a cloud front moves in or the wind dies down.

        "Offshore wind is key."

        Glad you brought that up. Let's take a look at offshore wind in Great Britain and Wales last January. Mind you, this is output for the offshore wind fleets of two entire countries.

        If you think this graph represents generation that could reliably meet baseload demand on any grid in the world you're either severely misinformed or in denial.

        The first step is to stop blindly believing advertising from Ørsted, the Danish state-owned company formerly known as Dansk Naturgas A/S, which was founded in 1972 to manage gas and oil resources in the Danish sector of the North Sea. Now they've divested from oil and gas to jump on the renewables gravy train, and want very much to make us believe wind energy is reliable, that Ørsted makes the best wind turbines, that they can help stop climate change, and other pretty lies.

        Mark Silverstone's picture
        Mark Silverstone on Nov 13, 2019 12:45 pm GMT

        If Ørsted were the only ones in this game, you would be right. But they are not. I notice you leave out Scotland.  Cherry picking data?

        I invite you to look at real data and real solutions. "Overview of wind power intermittency: Impacts, measurements, and mitigation solutions"

        The solutions are not simple. But they are real and getting more straightforward.  Your solution is to wait at least ten years for a "nuclear breakthrough"?  Dismiss real breakthroughs with promises that are never realized and still manage to squander $ billions? Let´s try to be constructive.

        Matt Chester's picture
        Matt Chester on Nov 13, 2019 5:07 pm GMT

        The solutions are not simple.

        I think this quote should be plastered at the top of any and all article talking about the future of energy!

        Bob Meinetz's picture
        Bob Meinetz on Nov 13, 2019 6:33 pm GMT

        Mark, do you even read your references? You sink your own ship (I'm well aware of this paper):

        "However, with the increase of wind power penetration level, operating power systems securely and reliably is a serious challenge due to the inherent nature of wind power intermittency. Wind power intermittency has been the major barrier for large scale wind power integration. This paper reviews past research on wind power intermittency, including its impacts on power system, how it is measured, and mitigation solutions. It has been found that as wind power integration increase, the system reverses and costs consequently increase, while the system reliability and CO2 reductions decrease."

        It's not my graph, Mark. But if you can make a convincing case for baseload offshore wind power in Scotland, I will be the first to celebrate: "Hooray for Scotland and its Baseload Offshore Wind Power!"

        While you're at it, make your case for less affluent, landlocked areas of the world, where the wind doesn't blow night and day. Maybe we should be able to celebrate Nigeria's offshore wind, or Columbia's, or Afghanistan's, or Nepal's, etc etc etc - but we can't, can we? Do you believe access to clean electricity is only important for rich people, in developed, windy countries? If not, it sure seems that way.

        onedit:  I know General Electric, Vestas, and other companies make wind turbines. Like the shareholders of Shell, Chevron, BP and other oil companies, shareholders are extremely pleased they're able to convince the public offshore wind will be an important part of a solution to climate change in the year 20XX, and not the pathetically insignificant bit player it currently is. In financial circles, that's known as "easy money".

        You can cut the time you'll wait for a nuclear breakthrough in half.

        Matt Chester's picture
        Matt Chester on Nov 13, 2019 10:24 pm GMT

        Do you believe access to clean electricity is only important for rich people, in developed, windy countries? If not, it sure seems that way.

        That's clearly not what he's saying. But more importantly, of course the regions with these resources should utilize them even if they're not global solutions. I don't see anyone criticizing the use of hydropower in the pacific northwest just because the rest of the country doesn't have such resources

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