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WFO: China drives record growth year for offshore wind

Explosive Chinese growth sees global offshore wind market break installation records in 2021, new report finds

Nearly 13GW of new offshore wind capacity was added in 2021, according to the WFO (pic credit: Ming Yang)
Nearly 13GW of new offshore wind capacity was added in 2021, according to the WFO (pic credit: Ming Yang)

A record-busting 15.7GW of new offshore wind capacity was added globally last year, with China accounting for a massive 12.7GW of the total, according to the latest report from the World Forum Offshore Wind (WFO).

The 2021 total is three times the 5.2GW added in 2020, which itself was a record-breaking year.

Thanks to 2021’s explosive growth, global offshore wind operating capacity reached 48.2GW, up from 32.5GW at the end of 2020. This means the annual growth rate for the sector was 48.5%, notes the report. 

A further 17GW of offshore wind is currently under construction worldwide, it adds, with China also leading the pack here.

With the coronavirus pandemic having stymied installation works early in the year, the bulk of new capacity (14,045MW) came online in the second half of 2021, the industry body notes.

China’s vast build-out came as companies scrambled to complete projects by the end of the year to secure federal feed-in tariffs before they expired. To benefit from the tariffs, projects had to be operational and feeding electricity into the grid by the end of 2021.

WFO’s total for China differs from those published by China’s National Energy Administration (16.9 GW) last month. This is due to the definition of added and/or operational capacity, WFO notes in its report – the industry body counts “added capacity” as when all turbines at a wind farm are installed and first power is generated. It counts a project’s entire capacity when this milestone is reached, rather than in stages.

China overtakes UK

Globally, 48.2GW of offshore wind capacity is now operational.

Last year’s growth took China’s cumulative total to 19,747MW, making it by far the world’s largest offshore wind market, accounting for 40% of total global capacity.

New Chinese additions in 2021 also pushed the UK from the first to the second biggest market, with 12,281MW operating offshore by the end of 2021.

Germany is the third biggest market in cumulative terms, even though the disruption caused by changes to the regulatory framework for offshore wind back in 2017 meant zero capacity under construction for the second year in a row, leaving its total installed capacity at 7.7GW.

The 3GW of offshore capacity that came into operation outside of China last year was spread across five countries and eight wind farms – the UK (three projects totalling 1857MW), the Netherlands (402MW across two projects), Denmark (one 605MW project), Taiwan (one 109MW project) and Norway (one 4MW project).

With many of China’s projects being around 200-300MW, the WFO notes the average size of projects newly added last year was 296MW, compared to 347MW in 2020.

Under construction

China’s leading status in the offshore wind sector looks set to continue. It has 7,993MW currently under construction, according to WFO. 

This is significantly more than other markets. 

The UK has 2,990MW under construction, followed by Taiwan (2,505MW) and the Netherlands (2,229MW), according to the report.

In addition, construction works for the first commercial-scale offshore wind farms started in France (976MW), Japan (140MW), Norway (88MW – floating), and Italy (30MW).

“China’s impressive growth together with an increasing number of projects under construction in new markets such as Japan, Taiwan, France, Norway, and Italy underline the global expansion of the offshore wind industry,” said WFO managing director, Gunnar Herzig.

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