This is a comparison guide of onshore vs offshore wind energy.
We look at what each one is, their differences and examples of current large wind projects globally.
Summary – Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy
- Wind energy involves the use of the wind to turn wind turbine blades, which in turn generates electricity via a generator
- Onshore wind energy far outpaces offshore wind energy in installed capacity and electricity production/generation, but, offshore wind energy is still looked at as having good long term potential for growth
- Offshore wind energy has traditionally been more expensive, but is becoming more price competitive recently (especially in Europe). Offshore wind energy usually has higher wind speeds available.
- Wind energy in general has a strong future due to projected growth across a number of areas over the coming years
How Wind Energy Works
Wind energy is pretty simple in theory:
- Kinetic energy from wind hits a wind turbine’s blades and turns that energy into rotational energy
- The blades are connected to a shaft in the turbine, and this shaft is connected to a generator
- The generator creates electrical energy through electromagnetism
Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy – What They Are
Onshore wind energy is land based wind turbines and wind farms.
Offshore wind energy is wind turbines located in seawater or freshwater sources.
A better explanation of offshore wind energy might be:
- Offshore wind energy is the use of wind farms constructed in bodies of water, usually in the ocean on the continental shelf, to harvest wind energy to generate electricity.
- … [it] includes inshore water areas such as lakes, fjords and sheltered coastal areas, utilizing traditional fixed-bottom wind turbine technologies, as well as deeper-water areas utilizing floating wind turbines
Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy – Differences, Costs, Power, Efficiency Etc.
Apart from the obvious location based difference between the two (land vs water based), there are additional differences between onshore and offshore wind.
Offshore wind energy has traditionally been more expensive, and higher wind speeds are usually available offshore (leading to better efficiency per capacity installed).
- The cost of offshore wind power has historically been higher than that of onshore wind generation, but costs have been decreasing rapidly in recent years and in Europe has been price-competitive with conventional power sources since 2017
- Higher wind speeds are available offshore compared to on land, so offshore wind power’s electricity generation is higher per amount of capacity installed … [and] opposition to construction is usually much weaker
Wind speed can be a key variable, because:
- Theoretically, when wind speed doubles, wind power potential increases by a factor of eight.
- The amount of power that can be harvested from wind depends on the size of the turbine and the length of its blades. The output is proportional to the dimensions of the rotor and to the cube of the wind speed
Global Installed Capacity, Production & Consumption Of Wind Energy
- At the end of 2018, made up 24% of installed capacity for renewables
- At the end of 2018, made up 5.5% of total global electricity production
- At the end of 2016, was the second most consumed renewable energy source for electricity
- Between 2012 to 2018, solar PV led all renewables in annual additional installed capacity by a wide margin, followed by wind energy, hydropower, and all other renewables as a group behind that (including solar CSP/thermal)
- … in 2016 wind energy accounted for 16% of the electricity generated by renewables
Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy Electricity Generation Globally
- Onshore wind energy was responsible for 916,313 GWh of electricity generation
- Offshore wind energy was responsible for 41,596 GWh of electricity generation
Onshore wind energy has far exceeded offshore wind energy electricity generation, even stretching back to 2010.
But, offshore wind energy offers big potential.
Investment In Wind Energy
Future Growth Of Wind Energy
Wind energy is expected to continue growing strongly in the future.
- Wind energy is expected to grow from 9% of total renewable energy consumption in 2017, to 12% of renewable energy consumption in 2023.
- Wind capacity is forecast to grow by 324 GW and reach 839 GW by 2023, with offshore wind accounting for 10% of the increase
- Offshore wind capacity is expected to almost triple to nearly 52 GW in 2023, with half the growth driven by the European Union and the other half by China and other Asian countries
- Onshore wind capacity growth could be 25% higher globally, increasing annual additions to over 60 GW over the forecast period
Examples Onshore & Offshore Wind Energy Worldwide – Largest Wind Farms, Countries With The Largest Wind Farms
You can view lists at:
China, the US and India have some of the largest current onshore wind farms.
Europe (UK and Germany, amongst others countries) and Asia (China mainly) have some of the largest current offshore wind farms.
6. https://www.iea.org/wei2018/ (includes figures for auction amounts of onshore and offshore wind)