The government is aiming to deliver as much as 18GW of energy capacity (around 20 per cent of the UK’s total electricity demand) from offshore wind farms by 2020, but businesses believe this will only be achieved if costs fall dramatically.
To reassure businesses that offshore wind could meet the government’s expectations, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) unveiled a report by the industry-led Offshore Wind Reduction Task Force that suggests reducing the price of offshore wind by more than 30 per cent to £100 per megawatt hour (MWh) by 2020 is achievable with the help of technology and innovation.
DECC claims that, if the reduction is achieved, the cost of delivering 18GW of electricity from offshore wind farms will drop from £140/MWh to £100/MWh, saving more than £3bn per year.
Phil De Villiers, head of offshore wind at the Carbon Trust and leader of the trust’s £45m Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) programme, spoke to media earlier this week on the cost-reduction evidence he and his team submitted to the Offshore Wind Reduction Task Force prior to today’s report.
He said that innovation can help reduce the cost of offshore wind energy by 25 per cent before the end of the decade, but warned that a lack of viable demonstration sites for new turbines could derail industry’s efforts to cut costs.
The Crown Estate conducted a study last year looking at the supply of demonstration sites in the UK compared with the forecast demand. De Villiers said the report showed that by 2015 there is going to be demand for 30 turbine foundations to be tested off shore, while there will only be 10 test sites available.
He explained that the next round of the offshore wind projects needed to meet the government’s target figures are more challenging because the sites are further from shore, where larger waves exist. ‘Of course the benefit of Round 3 sites is they’re in much windier conditions,’ he added.
According to De Villiers, there are numerous technologies that could be used in the challenging conditions at Round 3 sites.
OWA has focused on four key technologies that could be deployed at Round 3 sites and that could offer significant cost reductions to offshore wind. They are: lower-cost foundation structures; improvements in the vessels used to carry crew to and from turbines for operations and maintenance; more efficient electrical systems to reduce losses and increase yields; and studies on wind farm wake effects to improve the layout of wind farms.