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84 new offshore wind farms in record year

Photo: Shaun Dakin - Unsplash Wind turbines on blue sky
Eighty-four new offshore wind farms, an average of seven every month, were commissioned in 2021, setting a new record and taking global capacity to 50.5 GW.

More than 18.5 GW commenced operation with 3,400 turbines, according to data from Clarkson Research analysis in its new Renewables Intelligence Network.

The analysts revealed that the lion’s share of new capacity was commissioned in China – 16 GW – which overtook the UK to become the world’s number one market. Much of this expansion came in the months prior to the expiry of government subsidies at the end of the year, Clarkson said.

New capacity in Europe was limited to just 1.8 GW, but a further 17 GW is under development. European capital committed over the year totalled $18.7bn, 80% more than the $10.3bn assigned to offshore oil and gas.

Meanwhile, in the nascent US market, the first utility-scale offshore farm – Vineyard Wind, 806 MW – achieved a final investment decision. This market is set to grow rapidly, however, as President Biden has set an ambitious 30 GW goal for the sector by the end of this decade.

Strong growth in the service sector is continuing, with almost 1,100 vessels by year-end. Wind turbine installation vessels (WTIVs) averaged utilisation rates of 83%, up six percentage points year-on-year, with day rates climbing and spiralling in China over the second half of the year. Contracts for a record number of 17 WTIVs were placed over the year, worth about $2.5bn, with orders for 15 construction support and service operation vessels worth a further $800m.

Clarkson expects another 9.5 GW of capacity to come on stream this year, taking the total to 60 GW. Investment is expected to reach $55bn, just short of the $56bn record set in 2020. By 2030, the analysts expect the number of operating offshore wind farms to total 712, up from 250 today. They are expected to generate 235 GW of renewable energy, up 465% over the balance of the decade.

Clarkson projects that offshore wind energy could contribute 6-9% of global energy supply by 2050.

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