Our world today faces multiple, often conflicting, challenges regarding energy security and climate change.

On the one hand, today’s energy price crisis shows a clear need to remove the volatility associated with fossil fuels. On the other hand, the looming climate emergency offers a much more existential threat to the energy sector (and our planet). Price volatility can be conquered through several methods in the short term but investing in clean power tech is the only true path to managing climate change effectively. And thankfully, the past few years marked an inflection point where the world began to “walk-the-walk”.

Ambitious emissions targets have been set across the globe, alongside new initiatives to support building a new world order for energy. And yet, despite ambition and funding, some experts are actually forecasting an increase in fossil fuels investments for 2022, citing that a meaningful shift from traditional E&P to clean power tech will only take place when there are enough cleantech opportunities for investors.

From the eyes of energy giant Iberdrola, these opportunities already exist in the ever-evolving wind power industry. With 93 GW of global capacity added in 2020 alone (a whopping 53% from the previous year) one thing is abundantly clear: wind delivers the energy society wants and will be the backbone of the energy transition.

Wind delivers the energy society wants

But this wasn’t always the case.

The sector had to overcome numerous challenges to gain its current level of clout. Beyond regulatory red-tape and permitting woes, wind first experienced adversity from heavy industries based on the high energy costs versus fossil fuels. Then came the nimby’s (not-in-my-backyard) who fought tooth and nail to ensure their backyard-views remained free of turbines.

Vineyard Wind 1 is one of Iberdrola's flagship projects, the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the United States. Photo: Iberdrola

Fast-forward to today and the evolving nature of wind has largely eliminated these concerns. Heavy industries like steel and cement are now some of the wind’s biggest supporters of renewable energy as they explore options for industrial electrification. Meanwhile, the nimby roadblock resulted in a pivotal innovation - moving farms out of those backyards and into the seabed.

Wind carries unlimited potential

The move offshore was a game-changer.

Not only are wind resources more abundant offshore (practically unlimited) - the lesser visual and acoustic impact meant larger farm plots. The ease of marine transport of components enabled turbines to reach vastly larger capacities and sizes compared to their onshore counterparts. This spurred an ongoing evolution to wind power technology that saw turbine capacity offshore increase by 102% between 2007 and 2017.

Evolution of unitary capacity and rotors of Iberdrola's offshore wind turbines. Photo: Iberdrola

Iberdrola’s slate of OSW projects exemplifies the stepwise evolution of offshore wind turbines over the past decade. These advances invite optimism and are only the beginning - the introduction of floating structures is creating tremendous new opportunities further offshore.

Floating wind is the next frontier

Floating offshore wind (FOW) is a rapidly-maturing technology with huge potential to accelerate the energy transition - particularly in Europe and the United States.

Iberdrola leads FLAGSHIP project to advance floating offshore wind

Iberdrola is taking a leading position in the field of floating offshore wind power by spearheading the European Flagship project.

FLAGSHIP is a Horizon 2020 project that aims to reduce the Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) for floating offshore wind to the range 40-60 €/MWh by 2030. The initiative will develop and fabricate the first 10 MW Floating Offshore Wind Turbine (FOWT) assembled on a floating semi-submersible concrete structure in the Norwegian North Sea.

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Until recently offshore installations relied on fixed structures to support turbines, rendering deepwater installations economically infeasible. With the advent of floating structures, wind turbines can be installed in very deep or complex seabed locations via flexible anchors, chains, or steel cables.

Nearly 80% of potential wind energy is located in these types of conditions, thus FOW opens doors to vast amounts of the ocean to be used for power generation. Floating wind is still relatively new tech, however, with only 80 MW of total installed capacity in 2021. Despite its infancy, experts agree it will be a key element to the renewables mix if it can overcome its initial hurdles.

And it has plenty of hurdles to contend with. A difficult permitting regime. A dysfunctional supply chain. High commodity prices. Angry lobstermen. These barriers are holding up the growth of offshore wind and holding back energy security for the world.

Unleashing offshore wind's full potential.

Two key things must happen to tap the full potential of offshore wind- more capital and more partnership.

Despite the record-breaking increases to capacity in 2020, investments must at least triple over the next decade to meet climate targets and minimise the impacts of the climate emergency. Community partnership and advocacy are also crucial elements of building consent and support for the wind economy.

Iberdrola is a world leader in the development of offshore wind, with an operational capacity, pipeline, and early-stage developments of approximately 37,000 MW. Looking ahead the company is more focused on striking new partnerships in the offshore wind power business, both fixed and floating. Focused on countries with ambitious targets, the company expects to have 12,000 MW of offshore wind energy in operation by 2030.

Iberdrola is attending this year's WindEurope annual event in Bilbao, which will focus on delivering faster expansion of renewables in Europe. For those serious about investment and partnership opportunities in wind, be sure to catch Iberdrola's experts on various panels such as: