Europe's offshore wind costs falling steeply

The latest report into the offshore wind sector by WindEurope shows the cost of investment required for the region's new wind capacity has been falling sharply since 2015.

The cost per MW in new offshore wind capacity has fallen rapidly since the introduction of competitive tendering (pic: Ørsted)

The report identified investment of €10.34 billion in the offshore wind sector in 2018, financing some 4.22GW of offshore wind capacity, which works out at €2.45 million/MW.

This price per megawatt is down 44.5% from the high of €4.41 million/MW in 2013, according to WindEurope’s figures.

The rapid fall in offshore wind costs has corresponded with the introduction of competitive auctions across Europe, notably in the Netherlands and Germany where zero-euro bids were successful, resulting in cheaper projects.

It is also inline with the development of the current generation of 6-10MW turbines forcing their way on to the market, indicating costs are set to fall even further as the 10-12MW machines currently being developed are selected.

WindEurope noted in its report the average capacity of turbines has increased 16% annually since 2014, reaching 6.8MW in 2018.

Other new technologies and synergies will also aid the reduction in investment costs, so long as they are proven and investors are brave enough to accept them.

The fall in costs is also down to economies of scale, as nearly as much capacity was financed between the three years of 2016-2018 (11.47GW) as there was in the six years prior between 2010 and 2015 (11.71GW).

Investments in new capacity increased 37% in 2018 following an adjustment year in 2017. But the total is still someway short of the record €18.24 billion — for 4.98GW — in 2016.

Country comparison

Elsewhere in the WindEurope report, the trade body broke down offshore wind investment costs in each offshore market.

Of the markets that financed over 250MW of new offshore wind capacity in 2018, the UK required the greatest level of investment, reaching €2.91 million/MW.

Elsewhere, however, in Germany, the cost of offshore wind investments was a low of €1.6 million/MW, while the Netherlands and Denmark also came in at less than €2 million/MW.

The level of discrepancy between the UK and the other major European offshore wind markets is the result of developer having to pay and install for the transmission connections at UK projects, while it is typically the transmission system operator’s (TSO) responsibility in the other markets.

The fluctuating price of Sterling could also have had an impact.