The cost of offshore wind power in Britain has fallen to £97 ($121) per MWh. According to an industry report (PDF), this represents a 32 percent drop from £142 ($178) four years ago.
The Offshore Wind Programme Board (OWPB), a part of The Crown Estate, which manages the UK seabed, released its report on Tuesday. The report noted that cost reductions had come primarily through the development of advanced technology and the adoption of larger turbines, as well as increased competition and, to a lesser extent, decreased cost of capital. “7MW and 8MW turbines have become standard for new projects,” the report stated. That’s consistent with a paper published two months ago in Nature Energy showing that the cost of wind power could be reduced by 24 to 30 percent by 2030 due to the installation of bigger turbines.
The new numbers mean that offshore wind energy has reached a government target—beneath £100 per MWh by 2020—four years earlier than was expected.
OWPB noted that it expects the cost of offshore wind energy to “continue to fall over the next decade.”
Notably, the cost per MWh is now within striking distance of nuclear energy in the UK. According to Reuters, the UK government awarded a contract to French energy company EDF to build the Hinkley C reactor project in southwest England at £92.50 per MWh. Britain has ambitious goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.
Reuters also notes that the UK has invested more than £9.5 billion ($11.8 billion) in offshore wind since 2010. The UK will nearly double that investment over the next five years.
Compared to onshore wind installations, offshore wind benefits from steadier winds and, generally, sites offer close proximity to major metropolitan areas. Offshore turbines can also be built bigger than onshore turbines. The downside is that installation of offshore turbines is generally much more expensive, given the submarine cables that need to be installed to get all that power to land.
Offshore wind farms have been built in Europe for years now, while the US has fallen behind on that front. But that could be changing. Block Island’s offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island came online at the end of last year, and other projects along the Atlantic coast are currently in the works.