- Publication date
- 1 January 2017
- Joint Research Centre
This report presents the market status and the technology development of onshore and offshore wind energy. It addresses the latest technological developments in the sector and outlines the policy support at European level.
In 2015 the global market showed a new record in annual installations. In total about 64 GW of wind turbines were installed; an increase of 20 % compared to 2014 levels. Global cumulative installed capacity reached about 430 GW of which, about 140 GW (producing around 300 TWh/annually) were operating within the boundaries of the European Union. China overtook the EU in terms of installed capacity (145 GW vs 140 GW). However, China's grid connected capacity lags behind due to the slow grid development and curtailment measures: about 130 GW in China versus 140 GW in the EU.
The offshore wind market still represents only a small share of the total wind energy deployment. Figures show that between 2010 and 2015 the share of offshore capacity installed increased from 1 % (3.8 GW) to 3 % (12.2 GW) of the total wind installations. Starting from 2010 the global offshore wind market showed stable annual deployment rates between 0.9 GW and 2.8 GW. Most recently European deployment rates showed an increase of about 29 % from the 1.8 GW in 2014 to 2.3 GW in 2015 as a consequence of the strong offshore market in Germany in 2015. The global offshore wind farm project pipeline in 2016 indicated that some 13.8 GW of turbines were in pre-construction, under construction or partial generation. If projects are taken into consideration whose consent application has been authorised and where the start of operation is envisaged for 2020 about 22.6 GW would be added to the current operational capacity. This means that a total of about 34.8 GW of global offshore wind capacity could be commissioned by 2020.
Wind energy technology continues to evolve towards longer blades, uprated electric generators and taller towers.
In onshore wind market, wind turbines installed in Europe in 2015 displayed the highest average rated power compared to other regions representing 2.4 MW while wind turbines in North American and Asian markets reached the largest average rotor diameters representing 101 m in both cases.
The evolution towards taller towers and longer blades is leading to an increasing trend of onshore wind turbines aimed at medium and low wind speed locations, especially in Asia and North America. As a consequence, the specific power of new wind turbines installed is decreasing.
Regarding drive train configuration, geared wind turbines with DFIGs (Doubly Fed Induction Generators) continue to be the preferred solution in the global market. Nevertheless, they are increasingly losing share in favour of arrangements with full-power converters (both direct drive and hybrid arrangements) as nominal power of new wind turbines increases. This trend is especially prominent in the European market.
Permanent magnet generators continue to be mainly employed in geared wind turbines in Europe, most likely because of the reduced size and weight of the generator and consequently less rare earths required. The Asian market, which historically displayed a predominance of permanent magnet generators in direct drive configuration, has started to increasingly use this type of generator in geared wind turbines in most recent years.
In the offshore wind market, the upward trend towards longer blades, uprated electric generators and taller towers is less pronounced than onshore. The evolution from geared wind turbines with DFIGs to full power converter drive train configurations is especially strong, with increasing direct drive and hybrid arrangements in Asia and Europe, respectively.
Even though offshore wind projects are becoming larger, further located from shore and at deeper waters, monopiles are currently and are expected to continue to be the most commonly used fixed ground foundations.
Scaling up wind turbines represent one of the main challenges faced by the wind industry. As a consequence a larger number of latest technological developments are especially focused on implementing modular approaches in wind turbine components, not only in towers and blades but also in uprated electric generators and offshore substations. Furthermore, completely innovative wind turbine concepts and technologies emerge with the purpose of increasing energy capture, optimizing operation and eventually reducing the cost of energy.
In terms of scientific publications and participation in EU granted projects in key wind turbine components, blades, electric generators and offshore foundations show the highest percentage of documents retrieved in the period 2011-2015. Asia is the main player followed by Europe. Almost 90 % of contributions come from the public sector, led by Aalborg University.
Although current support schemes for wind energy vary across EU Member States, a transition from feed-in tariffs to competitive tender-based schemes can be witnessed. As of July 2016, nine EU MSs for onshore wind energy and seven EU MSs for offshore had competitive tender-based support schemes in force for new installations. However, only three EU MSs offered a tender-based feed-in premium, namely Croatia (onshore), The Netherlands (on- and offshore) and Denmark (offshore). Moreover, regulatory changes to meet the State Aid Guidelines for Environmental protection and Energy (EEAG) 2014-2020 are in progress or development in Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Slovakia, Finland and Lithuania.