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article imageOffshore windfarms can provide more electricity than we need

By Karen Graham     Oct 25, 2019 in Business
Offshore wind sites could provide more than enough clean energy to satisfy the world's electricity needs, said a report by the International Energy Agency.
In an excerpt from the International Energy Agency's (IEA) flagship World Energy Outlook 2019, which will be published in full on 13 November, the Paris-based energy watchdog said that the falling costs of offshore wind would make it competitive with fossil energy within the next decade.
The IEA found that global offshore wind capacity may increase 15-fold and attract around $1 trillion (£780bn) of cumulative investment by 2040. And while this increase is being driven by decreasing costs and more supportive government policies, it is the advanced technologies taking place that have really spurred its growth.
We now have larger turbines and floating foundations, but according to IEA, this is just the start. Offshore wind technology has the potential to grow far more strongly with stepped-up support from policymakers.
The Guardian points out that the IEA's analysis shows that if wind farms were built across all usable sites which are no further than 60 kilometers (37 miles) off the coast, and where coastal waters are no deeper than 60 meters (197 feet), they could generate 36,000 terawatt-hours of renewable electricity a year. The current global demand is 23,000 terawatt-hours yearly.
“Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3% of global power generation, but its potential is vast,” the IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, said. With the next generation of floating turbines capable of operating further from the shore, enough energy could be generated to meet the world’s total electricity demand 11 times over in 2040.
“In the past decade, two major areas of technological innovation have been game-changers in the energy system by substantially driving down costs: the shale revolution and the rise of solar PV,” said Dr. Birol. “And offshore wind has the potential to join their ranks in terms of steep cost reduction.”
The report also points to the European Union's offshore wind capacity, noting that it will grow from almost 20 gigawatts today to nearly 130 gigawatts by 2040. China's growth will be even more rapid - with its offshore growth going from 4 gigawatts to 110 gigawatts by 2040 or 170 gigawatts if it adopts tougher climate targets.
Birol also talks about the ease of producing hydrogen from offshore wind which can be used instead of fossil fuel gas for heating and in heavy industry. Making hydrogen from water uses huge amounts of electricity but abundant, cheap offshore wind power could help produce a low-cost, zero-carbon alternative to gas, Birol says.
There are huge business opportunities that exist for oil and gas sector companies to draw on their offshore expertise. An estimated 40 percent of the lifetime costs of an offshore wind project, including construction and maintenance, have significant synergies with the offshore oil and gas sector. That translates into a market opportunity of $400 billion or more in Europe and China over the next two decades, according to the report.
More about offshore wind, global electricity, Demands, Iea, economic benefits
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