Worldwide offshore wind installations are set to more than double in 2021 driven by a flurry of additions in China, said the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) as it raised its 10-year forecast for the sector by 15%.
China grid connected 3.1GW of offshore turbines in 2020, more than half the 6.1GW added globally, said the wind industry body. That was slightly down on 2019’s record-setting 6.2GW, likely due to Covid impacts, but GWEC expects total installations in 2021 to come in at more than double last year’s figure as Chinese developers race to beat an end-of-year deadline to claim government subsidies for 7.5GW of projects.
With a shade under 10GW already in place at the end of 2020, China has already overtaken Germany and this year is on course to pass the UK as the world’s largest offshore wind market by cumulative installations.
However, GWEC’s analysts in its latest Global Offshore Wind Report 2021 expect the Chinese market to slow markedly after the end of 2021 and the end of central subsidies, with future growth more dependent on provincial support and the sector’s ability to compete in the power market.
Even with a slowing China, GWEC is upbeat about offshore wind’s growth prospects thanks to the emergence of new market opportunities in Asia such as Japan and South Korea, along with the potential of floating wind to open new markets.
GWEC expects 235GW of new offshore wind capacity to be installed over the next decade under current policy frameworks, seven times bigger than the current market size and a 15% boost on last year’s expectations.
But the wind body warned: “This is only 11% of the capacity required to meet net zero targets by 2050, and the world has so far installed only 2%of the offshore wind capacity that will be needed by the middle of this century to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
Along with Asia, one of the key drivers of global offshore wind growth this decade will be the US, where GWEC said development activity is “impressively high”, bolstered by policy targets unveiled by President Joe Biden and increasingly ambitious state procurement goals.
The wind body said 28.4GW could be built in US waters by the end of the decade, close to Biden’s goal of having 30GW online by then.
Feng Zhao, head of market intelligence and strategy at GWEC said: “We’ve seen unprecedented growth of offshore wind over the past decade with the UK, China and Germany leading the way.
“Looking to the next three decades, Asia will need to emerge as the world’s most prominent offshore wind region to deliver this massive scaling-up of capacity, accounting for 40% of the 2GW needed by 2050, followed by Europe with 32% and North America with 18%.”
Zhao added: “While this may seem like a huge challenge, it is just a drop in the water compared to the 71,000GW of technical offshore wind potential that exists in the world today and goes largely untapped.”