Carbon Trust and Offshore Wind

The Carbon Trust have been at the forefront of the offshore wind industry for the past decade, working closely with government, developers, supply chain, and innovators to inform policy, support technology designers, identify opportunities to reduce the cost of energy, and deliver innovation programmes to achieve cost reduction. The team has a wide range of skills and expertise, with many years' experience working in the sector. Our expertise spans the full project lifecycle and has included delivering multi-million pound programmes and consulting services to clients around the world.

About us

Why offshore wind

The Carbon Trust believes that mass deployment of offshore wind is critical to bridge the global energy gap and to meet climate change targets. Offshore wind is a highly scalable renewable energy technology, capable of generating large volumes of low carbon electricity. Increasing deployment of this technology addresses many strategically important goals such as decarbonisation, security of supply, and new business opportunities.

Our analysis suggests that offshore wind power is on the cusp of exponential growth, with installed capacity set to nearly triple in the period from 2015 to 2020. Cost reductions can be seen in recent auction tenders, which suggest that costs have fallen by 60% compared to 2010 levels, already surpassing industry cost targets for 2025.

However, there is still a challenge to reduce costs further to reach parity with other energy technologies, particularly with the move further offshore and into deeper waters, demanding the introduction of more innovative and resilient technologies. Similarly, the advance of offshore wind in new markets beyond Europe creates a need for further technology innovation and cost reduction efforts in order to make offshore wind a mainstream energy technology globally.

The engineering challenge of the 21st century

The majority of the 14 GW of offshore wind farms deployed to date has been installed in relatively benign conditions, with water depths less than 20m and within 25km from shore. However, future wind farms will be located in more challenging site conditions, up to 200km offshore and in water depths up to 60m. The development of floating wind turbines could also unlock water depths over 60m. Turbine size is also increasing rapidly. Despite an average turbine rating of ~4MW installed to date, the latest models on the market have already reached 9.5MW, with 13-15MW turbines expected by 2025. From the foot of the foundation to the tip of the turbine blade, these structures will be as high as 280m, with turbine rotor diameters >50% larger than the London Eye.

This will create challenges in developing the supporting infrastructure to enable these turbine advances. The deeper waters will require optimised or new foundation designs to be developed. New installation vessels and methods will be required to cope with more distant wind farms, and to deliver faster installation rates. New electrical and cable systems are required to minimise transmission losses and improve reliability. Larger turbines with more reliable drivetrains are required to take advantage of the increased wind resource. New wind farm layouts will be needed to minimise wake effects and maximise yields. And floating foundations will be needed to unlock strong wind resource in deep water locations, opening new markets for offshore wind.

To meet this challenge, Carbon Trust are committed to accelerating the development of new technologies and work with industry partners to apply their knowledge and skills to make offshore wind a viable commercial proposition across the world.

Insights and case studies on offshore wind

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