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Expert Predictions about the Future of Onshore and Offshore Wind Energy
April 29, 2021
Wind energy has grown rapidly, but its long-term contribution to energy supply depends—in part—on future costs and value. Five years after a similar effort, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory surveyed 140 global wind experts to seek insights on the possible magnitude of and drivers for cost reductions, anticipated technology trends, and grid-system value-enhancement measures. They explore three wind applications: onshore wind, fixed-bottom offshore wind, and floating offshore wind.
Experts forecast continued cost declines across all applications: 17-35% by 2035 in the ‘best guess’ scenario and up to 38-53% in a ‘low cost’ scenario. Experts in 2020 anticipate future onshore and offshore wind costs that are 50% lower than predicted just five years earlier, in 2015. Experts forecast typical onshore and offshore turbines in 2035 with a capacity two or three times as large as current plants, and new strategies such as using larger rotors, co-locating storage assets, and offering ancillary services to increase the value of wind energy in electricity markets.
Overall, the research finds that cost reductions have accelerated in recent years—faster than previously predicted by most forecasters and experts, and faster than historical rates of decline. Experts anticipate significant future reductions, and also growing use of grid-system value enhancement measures. These trends might enable wind to play a larger role in global energy supply than previously thought while facilitating energy-sector decarbonization. At the same time, uncertainties in the magnitude of future wind energy cost reduction are significant, illustrating the importance of uncertainty in policy, planning, investment, and research decisions.