"Leading the Energy Transition: Wind Power" is part of a series of FactBooks on the energy transition conducted by the SBC Energy Institute. This FactBook summarizes the status of the wind industry and its prospects, lists the main technological hurdles and principal areas for research and development, and analyzes the economics of this technology.
FIGURE 1: GLOBAL INSTALLED WIND CAPACITY (GW)
SOURCE: GLOBAL WIND ENERGY COUNCIL (2013), “GLOBAL WIND STATISTICS 2012”
Wind power capacity has accelerated rapidly over the last decade in OECD countries, China and India
Global capacity increased by an average of 24% a year since 2003 to reach 282 GW at the end of 2012 (Figure 1). Growth has been driven by onshore technology, which accounts for 98% of capacity. Accounting for 29% of capacity additions and 27% of total installed capacity in 2012, China has overtaken Europe and the US as the biggest wind power market. Despite this impressive capacity deployment, wind still accounts for no more than 4.4% of global installed capacity, supplying less than 2% of the world’s electricity. However, growth is expected to continue, with a doubling of capacity from 2011 to about 500 GW by 2017 and increasing average load factor.
Onshore wind is nearing competitiveness, while the economics of offshore projects will depend on cost reductions once the present demonstration phase is complete
Wind capacity deployment is favored by cost reduction of onshore technologies that are nearing competitiveness with investment costs ranging from $1300 to $2500 per kW. If wind conditions are favorable, onshore projects can generate electricity at levelised costs as low as $50 per MWh. Due to its initial stage of development and the need for expensive marine foundations and costly grid connections, the economics of offshore projects will depend on cost reductions, once the present demonstration phase is complete. It is from now requiring investment from $3200 to $6000 per kW (Figure 2). Grid integration costs resulting from wind are hard to assess and highly system-specific. There is a lack of research into penetration rates higher than 30%.
FIGURE 2: PROJECTED INVESTMENT COST (USD / KW)
SOURCE: IRENA (2012), “RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES: COST ANALYSIS SERIES - WIND POWER“
Wind Research, Development & Demonstration (RD&D) efforts are focused on maximizing energy capture, promoting the use of offshore wind power and solving network-integration difficulties arising from wind’s intermittency
Wind research, development and demonstration (RD&D) efforts are essential for offshore projects to improve components and reduce technology costs. Large-scale demonstration activities are under way in Europe, with a strong push in the UK. RD&D is also crucial to minimize cost per unit of capacity, maximize energy capture and address network-integration difficulties arising from wind’s intermittency.
FIGURE 3: GROWTH IN SIZE OF TYPICAL COMMERCIAL WIND TURBINE (HUB HEIGHT IN METERS )
SOURCE: IPCC (2011), “SPECIAL REPORT ON RENEWABLE ENERGY“
Wind power is not facing any major environmental and social hurdles except its local aesthetic impact. However, in spite of being one of the lowest greenhouse-gas-emitting energy technologies, there are associated network integration issues. The degree of wind’s carbon abatement therefore depends on the grid’s system capacity to compensate for intermittency without relying on carbon-intensive power plants during peak demand periods.
To read more, download the FactBook presentation here (3.55MB PDF).