Onshore wind

Tracking Clean Energy Progress

More efforts needed

Onshore wind capacity additions declined by 10% in 2017, marking the second year of decline in a row. This trend is in contrast with SDS generation targets requiring a continuous growth in new build capacity to maintain annual generation growth of 12% through 2030. As a result, onshore wind lost its “on-track” status this year and needs improvement.

Onshore wind power generation

Historical development and targets

	Historical	Forecast	SDS Targets
2000	31.2		
2001	38.3		
2002	52.5		
2003	62.9		
2004	82.4		
2005	101.4		
2006	130.0		
2007	166.7		
2008	215.6		
2009	272.5		
2010	333.7		
2011	424.3		
2012	509.3		
2013	625.9		
2014	693.7		
2015	799.6		
2016	916.2		
2017	1090.5		
2018		1161.4	
2019		1268.6	
2020		1378.3	
2021		1492.3	
2022		1604.8	
2025			2510.7
2030			3644.0
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In 2017, grid-connected onshore wind capacity additions declined for the second year in row to around 44 GW, from 56GW in 2016 and 65GW in 2015. Last year, China connected over 14 GW of new onshore wind capacity. This was a quarter lower than in 2016 and well below record deployment in 2015, resulting from a government ban on new development in northern regions in response to high levels of curtailment.

Onshore wind annual capacity additions

As a result of declining capacity additions, onshore wind is no longer on track to meet SDS goals.

	2015	2016	2017
China	35	16	14
United States	8	9	7
India	2.6	3.6	4.1
Brazil	2.5	5.3	3.4
Japan	0	0.4	0.2
EU	10	11.5	11.3
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The European Union connected a record 11.5 GW of onshore wind capacity, driven by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which together accounted for over two-thirds of the growth in Europe.

In the United States, onshore wind capacity additions fell by 15% in 2017. India connected a record 4.1 GW of capacity as developers rushed to commission projects before the end of a generous incentive programme.

As a result of these developments, spending on onshore wind plants fell by nearly 15% in 2017, to around USD 70 billion. However, part of the decline in investment stemmed from lower costs, which were down around 5% on average for new installations.

Tracking progress

Onshore wind is not fully on track to reach its SDS power generation target and needs improvement. Capacity additions need to grow by 5% each year, to 90 GW in 2030 from 44 GW in 2017. However, their growth rate has decreased since 2015.

China’s onshore wind market has been slowed by increasing curtailment problems and there are no signs of a significant rebound in the short term. In the United States, the phase-out of production tax credits and the corporate tax reduction signal more challenging market conditions, as they may limit economic attractiveness and financing in the medium term.

In Brazil, macroeconomic and financial challenges have slowed growth of onshore wind.

India’s new auction system is expected to promote strong capacity growth, but operational and grid integration problems are preventing onshore wind plants from operating at full capacity.

In Europe, policy uncertainty remains over the post-2020 governance of wider 2030 renewable energy targets.


The IEA’s new Innovation Tracking Framework identifies key long-term “technology innovation gaps” across the energy mix that need to be filled in order to meet long-term clean energy transition goals. Each innovation gap highlights where R&D investment and other efforts need improvement.

Explore the technology innovation gaps identified for onshore wind below:

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

As turbine costs drop in the SDS, interconnection and balance-of-system take up a higher share of overall installation costs. Learning on design concepts as well as fundamental technology improvements to power engineering equipment will be necessary.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

DC infrastructure; high voltage interconnections, array interconnection, streamlined cable layouts.

Key initiatives

US DoE FOAs for offshore wind have components of grid integration innovation.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Soft costs for offshore wind take up a substantial share of total installed costs, and together with interconnection they are a key challenge for reaching SDS cost goals.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Pre-commissioning of onshore wind turbines, concepts for integrating structure components.

Key initiatives

A number of simulation projects in place aside from commercial opportunities, including the Far and Large Offshore Wind Programme at ECN in the Netherlands. The European Wind Energy Technology Platform, as well as the Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task Force both have initiatives in place to accelerate installation processes. The UK Offshore Wind Catapult is a leading example of tools to accelerate deployment.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

High throughput manufacturing and standardised designs of floating structures could lower costs in the mid- to long-term. Around a third of the long-term economic potential in the SDS is at depths higher than 50m.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Overall testing of floating designs. The variety of designs at the moment precludes recommendation of specific research areas.

Key initiatives

  • Floating Hywind wind farm in Scotland, 30 MW in place.
  • Macquarie/Ideol's first floating wind farm in Japan.
  • Floating wind foundations included in USD offshore wind R&D consortium (USD 18.5 million).
  • Glosten tension-leg platform and Principle Power semi-submersible concepts.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Large rotor diameters and higher hub heights have higher upfront and per unit power costs but increase production and decrease costs per unit energy while making better use of the resource and decreasing variability of output.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Fundamental improvements to turbine blade design and manufacturing, as well as materials and construction.

Key initiatives

  • UK Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult provides a platform for testing, grid emulation and KTT.
  • GE's Haliade-X programme aims to develop 12 MW turbines by 2023.
  • US Wind Energy Technology Office/EERE allocating 18.5 million to overall cost reductions of offshore wind.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Wind farm planning, both onshore and offshore, will require enhanced sensitivity assessment of the surrounding environment to ensure long term turbine efficiency and attractive return on investment.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

  • Improve the accuracy of offshore pre-construction planning to accommodate seasonal and yearly variations/changes in the wind resource.
  • Refinement and validation of model outputs against measured data.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Wind farms need to ensure their value to the system is maintained with the high penetration levels in the SDS.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Enhance short-term forecasts to facilitate the integration of higher volumes. Innovate big-data analytics from plant-level measurements, including neural network/AI controls. Component 3D printing and hybrid materials for wind towers potentially highly disruptive.

Key initiatives

  • Nearly 600m USD total funding globally for wind turbine technology improvements.
  • Initiatives on blade segmentation and turbine erection.

Explore all 100+ innovation gaps across 38 key technologies and sectors here.

🕐 Last updated Friday, 14 December 2018