Moving into uncharted waters

WORLDWIDE:The offshore wind sector is not large. At the end of 2013 it consisted of less than 7GW of installed capacity, representing a little over 2% of wind's worldwide total. Nor is it global.

Europe has learned, sometimes painfully, that the financial, technological and timeframe requirements for

Virtually all of today's offshore turbines operate in one little spot on the planet's vast oceans, the continental shelf off northern Europe. Indeed, one small country alone, the UK, possesses half the offshore wind generating power.

offshore wind development are of a completely different order to those onshore. But now that it has done the heavy lifting, other countries in other parts of the world appear to be preparing to take the plunge into the water.

This special report focuses on those non-European nations most advanced in their offshore wind planning — China, the US, Japan, India and Brazil. We have looked at why they require offshore wind to be part of their energy-generation mix, their experience with pilot and demonstration projects, and the obstacles - financial, political, logistical, technological and meteorological — that they have to clear before they can generate offshore wind power on a utility scale. Only China can be confidently expected to achieve that before the end of the decade, although the US and Japan have the resources to make a significant contribution.

Cheaper by one third in six years

We haven't ignored Europe here, but we have zeroed-in on the overriding issue that dominates all debate and discussion about the continent's offshore sector. How it can cut generation costs by at least one third over the next six years.

The means being explored to reach this ambitious target range far and wide — from bigger turbines and industrialised economies of scale, to specialist vessel design and high-voltage inter-array cabling. Even paint becomes a big issue when the painting of an offshore turbine can cost up to 100 times that of an onshore machine.

Shaun Campbell is features editor of Windpower Monthly

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