US and China to 'challenge UK's top offshore spot'

The UK is likely to retain its position as world leader in installed offshore wind capacity over the next few years, but will face challenges from the US and China as the technology becomes more attractive in markets beyond western Europe, according to new analysis.

The UK's lead in offshore development is narrowing as the Chinese market takes off (pic credit: Innogy)
The UK's lead in offshore development is narrowing as the Chinese market takes off (pic credit: Innogy)

To date, offshore wind deployment has largely been restricted to markets capable of shouldering the "substantial cost" of the technology, especially the UK and Germany, analysts at Fitch Solutions explained.

But growing economies of scale and technological innovation — including rapidly increasing turbine ratings  — are driving down costs and making offshore wind more competitive in new markets.

This is especially the case in the US and Asia, with China in particular showing great potential for growth, the analysts added in a new research note.

Offshore wind is playing a growing role in state’s ambitions in the US, with an 18GW pipeline of projects, largely off the east coast, the analysts noted.

Fitch expects China to be the "fastest expanding and biggest" offshore wind power market by the early 2020s boosted by domestic companies showing improving capabilities. Both Dongfang Electric and CSIC Haizhung have unveiled 10MW turbines, for example.

However, China is building from a smaller base (4.6GW by the end of 2018, according to Fitch Solutions) than the UK’s world-leading 7.9GW, according to Windpower Intelligence, the research and data division of Windpower Monthly, at the end of last year.

Fitch therefore forecasts the UK to "cement" its position as world leader in the medium term as it opens up its revenue support mechanism (the contract for difference scheme) to about 13GW of additional offshore wind projects in the next decade.

Trailing onshore

Despite offshore wind playing "an increasingly important role in the global wind power sector expansion over the coming decade", Fitch Solutions expects deployment of the technology to lag behind onshore wind.

With a 223.3GW project pipeline, onshore wind still accounts for the majority (64%) of wind farms in development, the analysts argue.

Global onshore wind capacity is also increasing from a much higher base, with the 504GW deployed by the end of 2018 accounting for 95% of all wind power installations.

Fitch argues that onshore wind’s quicker lead times mean that projects go from planning to commissioning at a much faster rate than offshore wind and that its project pipeline is refreshed more quickly

The analysts conclude that onshore wind will remain the main driver on wind capacity growth worldwide.

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