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Floating offshore wind is ready to take off

This week, the world’s offshore wind industry will be gathering virtually for RenewableUK’s Global Offshore Wind event. It is one of the biggest offshore wind events in the calendar, which is not surprising given that the UK remains the world’s single biggest market for offshore wind. GWEC is a proud partner of this event and supporting the important Global Markets Theatre, where we will shine a light on the emerging markets and offshore wind growth around the world.


The UK plays an important leadership role in offshore wind, thanks to the scale of its market and its international work on climate change, particularly in the lead up to COP26. T ilhis month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson restated his government’s commitment to deliver 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 to power every home in the UK with clean and affordable energy.


This unprecedented commitment shows how far we have come as an industry that a major economy sees offshore wind as the powerhouse driving its low carbon economy.


As well as the strong backing of offshore wind, equally important was establishing the target of 1GW of floating offshore wind by 2030. As a target, it is reasonably conservative given the scale of projects expected to come out of the current Scotwind leasing round. Up to 10GW of sites are up for bidding, and many of these will suit floating offshore technology better than jackets or monopiles.


However, the 1GW figure puts down an important marker that the government is serious about moving from demonstration to deployment, and will look to back this up through Contract for Difference (CfD) auctions, which have been a major tool to accelerate the development and reduce the costs of fixed-bottom offshore wind in the UK.

At #RUKGlobal20, GWEC is organising a session on floating offshore wind to look at its growth in new markets around the world Ahead of this, let’s look a bit more at GWEC’s own forecasts for this emerging sector and when this technology is expected to really take off.

Between 3 to 19 GW of floating offshore wind could be installed over the next decade

What we are seeing now is a rapid ramp up floating offshore wind underway in a number of other nations, not just the UK. Pressing ahead in terms of projects is South Korea, with the government reaffiriming its commitment to offshore wind after the recent re-election, and is prioritising floating offshore. Backing up this commitment are multiple +500 MW projects now in development by big name players like Equinor, GIG and CIP in South Korea. Outside of these two markets there also is significant activity in Japan, Norway, Sweden, Spain, France and Italy, while steps are being taken in markets as diverse as Saudi Arabia, California, and Taiwan (to name a few) to bring forward floating offshore wind as a key technology to decarbonise energy systems across the world.



In GWEC’s recent Global Offshore Wind Report 2020, we showcased the rapid growth of offshore wind with new markets emerging across the globe. Across the next decade we are forecasting over 200GW of offshore wind to be deployed globally, creating up to 900,000 new jobs.


Forecasts for how much floating offshore wind will have delivered by 2030 range from 3 to 19GW, depending on how quick commercialization can happen for the industry. Considering current project pipelines and costs, GWEC expects that 6.2 GW of floating offshore wind capacity will be installed by 2030.



While 6.2 GW is not a huge number, it is more important to look at when this capacity will be installed to better understand the growth trajectory of the sector. Less than 10 per cent of the 6.2 GW will be built out in the first half of the decade, with over half coming online in the last two years. This signals that the industry is scaling up and ready for rapid acceleration in the 2030s and beyond. According to The Carbon Trust, over 60 GW of floating offshore wind will be delivered from 2030 to 2040 – that’s an increase of 868 per cent compared to the growth we expect this decade.

GWEC is driving floating offshore wind growth globally

The offshore wind sector has consistently set and surpassed its own targets, and ten years ago many would have never believed how quickly the offshore wind sector has grown and become a key part of energy systems across the globe. That means that while today forecasts for floating offshore wind growth look ambitious, looking back from 2040 and 2050, we will hopefully see that what looks like ambitious and stretching targets today, were actually conservative ones. To do this we have to make our own future, as GWEC Global Offshore Wind Ambassador and offshore visionary Henrik Stiesdal likes to say.


To play our part in making this future for floating offshore wind, GWEC has set up a new Floating Offshore Wind Task Force. Chaired by Henrik Stiesdal with myself as co-Chair, we’re working with GWEC members to support the growth of floating offshore wind in priority markets, and accelerate adoption in new markets. GWEC has a strong track record in supporting and growing both onshore and offshore wind and getting needed policy adopted and local capacity in emerging markets. The time is now right to apply that experience to rapid acceleration for this new and exciting floating offshore wind sector.

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