Wind energy

Wind energy is developing towards a mainstream, competitive and reliable power technology. Globally, progress continues to be strong, with more active countries and players, and rapidly increasing installed capacity and investments.

Technology improvements (such as larger turbines) have continuously reduced costs, with some particularly impressive cost reductions for offshore wind in recent years. The industry has overcome supply bottlenecks and expanded supply chains.

Wind-generated electricity met close to 4% of the world’s electricity demand in 2015—a record-setting year with more than 63 GW of new wind power capacity installed. The global wind energy potential is vast: wind could account for up to 30% of global power generation by 2040, according to the World Energy Outlook 2016.

Like with solar PV, the output from wind power is variable. However, countries like Denmark, which already has a wind share of around 40% of electricity production, have demonstrated that this variability can be dealt with through appropriate system operation and market design measures.

Onshore wind

	Eurasia	MENA	Sub-Saharan Africa	Latin America	North America	Europe	Asia and Pacific	China
2014	0.6	1.7	0.9	7.5	77.1	125.3	32.9	96.2
2015	0.7	2	1.5	11.1	87.9	136.6	36.5	128.3
2016	0.8	2.4	1.9	14.5	98.4	147	41.8	148.3
2017	0.9	2.9	2.5	16.2	107.2	156	48.8	167.3
2018	1.1	3.6	3	18.9	116.7	163	55.2	186.8
2019	1.4	4.3	3.7	21.2	127.9	171.2	61.1	206.8
2020	1.6	5.1	4.4	23.9	142.5	179.4	67	227.8
2021	2.1	6	5	26.9	153.4	187.6	71.9	250.3
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]}

Source: Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2016

Onshore wind is a proven, mature technology with an extensive global supply chain. Onshore technology has evolved over the last five years to maximise electricity produced per megawatt capacity installed to unlock more sites with lower wind speeds. Machines have become bigger with taller hub heights, larger rotor diameters and in some cases bigger generators depending on the wind and site-specific conditions.

Onshore wind leads global renewable energy growth, accounting for over one-third of the renewable capacity and generation increase in 2015. Onshore wind generation is expected to almost double by 2021 and reach 1545 TWh.

Offshore wind

	European Union	China	North America	Asia and Pacific	Other countries
2014	8	0.7	0	0.1	0
2015	11	1	0	0.1	0
2016	11.6	1.4	0	0.2	0
2017	13.5	1.9	0	0.3	0
2018	16.3	2.6	0	0.6	0
2019	19.1	3.6	0.3	0.7	0
2020	24.6	5.1	0.4	1.3	0
2021	27.6	6.8	0.6	1.4	0
{"title":{"text":"Offshore wind capacity and forecast by region (GW)"},"subtitle":{"text": "Click a region in the legend to hide/show on the chart"},"tooltip":{"shared":true,"valueSuffix":" GW"},"chart":{"type":"area", "spacingTop":30, "spacingBottom":30,"spacingRight":20},"plotOptions":{"series":{"marker": { "enabled": false},"stacking": "normal"}},"yAxis":{"reversedStacks":false,"labels":{"format":"{value} GW"}}}

Source: Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2016

Deploying turbines in the sea takes advantage of better wind resources than at land-based sites. Offshore turbines, therefore, achieve significantly more full-load hours.

Furthermore, offshore wind farms can be located near large coastal demand centres, often avoiding long transmission lines to get power to demand, as can be the case for land-based renewable power installations. This can make offshore particularly attractive for countries with coastal demand areas and land-based resources located far inland, such as China, several European countries and the US.

While needing to satisfy environmental stakeholders, offshore wind farms generally face less public opposition and, to date, less competition for space compared with developments on land. As a result, projects can be large, with the 630 MW London Array wind farm currently being the largest in the world.

In 2015, global offshore wind generation reached an estimated 38 TWh, 50% higher than in 2014. At the end of 2015, global offshore wind cumulative capacity was 12 GW, and this is expected to triple by 2021.

The expansion of offshore wind is being helped by rapid costs reductions thanks to competitive auctions and larger turbines sizes. In late 2016, the winning bid for the Borssele III and IV Wind Farms in the Netherlands reached a new record low cost of €55/MWh.

Technology Roadmaps

The IEA has developed and regularly updates a series of global, low-carbon energy technology roadmaps which identify priority actions for governments, industry, financial partners and civil society that will advance technology development and uptake to achieve international climate change goals.

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Technology Roadmap: Wind Energy

Published: 16 October 2013

The IEA Wind Power Technology Roadmap 2013 Edition recognises the very significant progress made since the first edition was published in 2009. The technology continues to improve rapidly, and costs of generation from land-based wind installations continue to fall. Wind power is now being deployed in countries with good resources without any dedicated financial incentives.

The 2013 Edition targets an increased share (15% to 18%) of global electricity to be provided by wind power in 2050, compared to 12% in the original roadmap of 2009. However, increasing levels of low-cost wind still require predictable, supportive regulatory environments and appropriate market designs. The challenges of integrating higher levels of variable wind power into the grid need to be addressed. For offshore wind, much remains to be done to develop appropriate large-scale systems and to reduce costs.

The 2013 Wind Power Roadmap also provides updated analysis on the barriers that exist for the technology and suggests ways to address them, including legal and regulatory recommendations.

Wind TCP

The mission of the IEA TCP on Wind is to stimulate co-operation on wind energy R&D and to provide high-quality information and analysis to member governments and industry leaders. This is achieved by assessing recent technology developments, deployment best practice, market uptake, and policy instruments. There are 21 Contracting parties, including Mexico, and two Sponsors.

Learn more about the Wind Energy Systems TCP >

About Technology Collaboration Programmes

The breadth and coverage of analytical expertise in the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs) are unique assets that underpin IEA efforts to support innovation for energy security, economic growth and environmental protection. The 38 TCPs operating today involve about 6 000 experts from government, industry and research organisations in more than 50 countries.

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