Bigger is Much Cheaper in Offshore Wind Energy

When workmen erected the very first offshore wind plant in the United States of America off the coast of Rhode Island five years ago, the six-megawatt turbines were approximate twice the height of Statue of Liberty and also its base. Big, on the other hand, continue getting bigger.

GE Renewable Energy said last month that it has started running an offshore wind turbine prototype valued at 14-megawatt in the waters of Rotterdam, Netherlands, which is nearly triple the height of Statue of Liberty as well as its base. Vestas and Siemens Gamesa, two other major turbine makers, are working on models with a capacity of 15 megawatts. Companies and analysts predict that a turbine valued at 20-megawatt will be built within the next few years.

This competition to create bigger turbines serves a useful function. Turbines become more efficient as they grow taller and their generating capacity grows, lowering the cost of power for users. Recent research published in a journal Applied Energy details the magnitude of savings in a way that has never been seen before. According to the NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), a hypothetical wind complex utilizing 20-megawatt offshore wind turbines saves 24 percent for every unit of power compared to the wind farm utilizing 6-megawatt turbines.

The cost reduction is key, to the point where offshore wind is now comparable with the expenses of electricity generated by natural gas power stations. (Onshore solar and wind power are still less expensive than all other options.)

“A 20% difference is huge, it’s extremely important,” said Matt Shields, the report’s lead author and an engineer at an energy lab. For context, he mentioned that a 1% or 2% savings can occasionally be the difference between a project being financially viable or not. Shields expressed surprise at the size of the savings. He believes the findings are particularly significant since they ignore non-financial advantages of the offshore wind, like the benefits of green energy to the environment and the reality that the offshore wind facilities can be located close to large population centers.

This analysis shows that regulations requiring the building of offshore wind may be implemented inexpensively in states such as New Jersey and Virginia. The same can be said for national objectives, such as the Biden administration’s goal of constructing 30 gigawatts of the offshore wind by the year 2030.

The authors of the research built a model of costs and output of 2 wind farms:

  1. One wind farm has a capacity of 500 megawatts and uses 6-megawatt turbines. It was going to cost over a billion dollars to construct.
  2. The other wind farm has a capacity of 2,500 megawatts and employs 20-megawatt turbines. It would cost over $5 billion to construct.

The larger one possesses a higher initial cost and a greater annual maintenance cost, but it generates far more electricity and does it more effectively than its smaller version. As a result, when it comes to cost per unit of power, the larger wind facility has a significant advantage. The large wind farm’s “levelized cost,” which includes construction and operation costs, is $53.30 for every megawatt-hour, while smaller wind farm’s levelized cost is $69.80 per megawatt-hour.