Investment in offshore wind power is expected to surge in the next several years, according to a report from Pike Research. As a result, total installed power generation capacity is projected to increase by a factor of 17 between now and 2017, rising from 4.1 GW of installed capacity to 70.1 GW by the end of the forecast period.
‘Some of the world's best wind resources are located offshore,’ says Peter Asmus, a senior analyst at Pike Research. ‘Often, these high-potential areas are in shallow ocean waters relatively close to urban population centers. Interest in freshwater offshore wind is also picking up, especially in the Great Lakes in the United States and Canadian Midwest.’
Although Europe has been operating wind turbines offshore for close to a decade, Pike Research's market forecast shows that China's offshore wind market will pull even with Europe's largest national leaders by 2017.
But Pike Research's analysis also indicates that the offshore wind market is not without significant challenges, the most notable of which is cost. Higher costs is a factor driving the industry to deploy larger wind turbines of up to 5 MW to 10 MW in size in larger wind farms in order to achieve the best economies of scale, according to Pike Research.
The long-term fate of the offshore wind power industry may ultimately hinge on driving down the cost of energy (COE) closer to $0.10/kWh by 2030, less than half of the current COE, according to the report.
Industry players are also focused on reducing the cost of installation and supporting infrastructure as well as ongoing operations and maintenance, through innovations related to vessels, foundations and the optimization of port facilities.