Wind energy

Wind energy is an important pillar in energy transition.

The EU has set the ambitious goal to have a CO2 free energy system fully comprising renewable energy sources in 2050. Of all the renewable energy technologies, wind energy is expected to provide the largest contribution to these targets for 2050. It is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, and clean and it so is an important pillar in the energy transition.  

In order to meet the above set goals, the Dutch government has set a target of 4.45 GW of installed offshore wind power capacity by 2023. Beyond, it is projected that by 2030, the total installed offshore wind energy capacity in the Netherlands is ranging between 11.5 GW and 18.6 GW and by 2050 between 35 GW and 75 GW. Considering the fact, that the current installed offshore capacity is about 1 GW, offshore wind will face a huge growth in the decades to come as depicted in the figure below.  

Regarding onshore wind there is a similar trend foreseen, although less rigorous as is the case for offshore wind. Starting from a current installed capacity of about 3.5 GW, the Dutch government has set a target of 6 GW of onshore wind power by 2020, which will contribute towards the Dutch goal of 14% renewable energy use out of total energy use. In 2030, combined solar and wind energy on land should yearly yield 35TWh, which has a wind energy capacity equivalent of about 17.5 GW. 

Figure 1: Offshore wind development in the Netherlands (Source: RVO/Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate)
Offshore wind energy has reached subsidy free level.

Rapidly falling prices for wind power, both onshore and offshore, have made it a least-cost option for new power generating capacity in many countries in recent years. Around the world, wind power is quickly becoming a mature and cost-competitive technology. The cost of onshore wind power is already competitive with other sources of electricity in a number of countries and also in the case of offshore wind, subsidy free projects have been announced in Germany and the Netherlands. 

A key driver of wind power’s increasing competitiveness has been continued innovation in wind turbine design and operation. This includes increase in the average capacity of turbines, hub-heights and blade lengths. These trends work together in synergy to reduce the cost of electricity from wind power. Additionally, improved policy framework has played an important role in reducing the cost of wind power. For example, the introduction of tenders in several countries, such as Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, has helped to bring down bid prices for both onshore and offshore wind power capacity. By way of illustration, tenders in the Netherlands in 2017 attracted “zero-subsidy” bids (to be paid market prices only) for offshore projects due to come online in 2022. Of course, attractive financial conditions and the fact that these recent projects are located close to shore with an already payed for grid connection, play an important role as well. In the development of offshore wind this is something to be aware of for future wind farms further from shore. 

Although the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, competition with conventional power will likely prevail for some years to come. 

Figure 2: Levelised Cost of Electricity (Offshore Wind Parks), excluding grid (Euro/MWh) (Source: TNO)
The challenges of integrating wind energy in the energy system, in the ecological system and in society.

Increasing the share of renewable power from wind energy will bring challenges in the energy system, the ecological system and in society. The huge amount of electricity from wind will require technological developments to be accompanied by well-designed regulations for grid management and operation, but also improved demand side management, new storage solutions, and stronger transmission and distribution systems. There is increasing interest to look at producing hydrogen with wind power as a means to help to smooth out the variability of wind power, to release the demands on the grid and to create additional opportunities. 

With increasing investments in wind energy at sea competition with other sea uses for ideal locations may be perceived as a concern as it is likely that large portions of the North Sea will be occupied by wind farm clusters by 2050. Yet, on the other hand, the various structures in the sea resulting from offshore wind development together with the limited fishing possibilities inside wind farms will create a huge marine biodiversity. For comparison, the current seabed of the North Sea may be considered as a dessertlike surface. 

Particularly onshore, perceived impacts of wind farm projects on property values and on individuals influence society’s view on wind energy. Acceptance issues often create barriers for new developments in wind energy. Although wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to conventional power plants, there are prevailing concerns such as the noise produced by the turbine blades and visual impacts to the landscape. This calls for proper citizen engagement in the further development of wind, particularly onshore. On the other hand, the steep growth of wind energy will also create a substantial amount of jobs, having a positive impact on society.

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