Massive wind turbines with almost 100m blades will cut the cost of offshore wind energy by at least 38% in seven years, according to a Danish company. Dong Energy, the world’s largest developer and operator of offshore wind farms, aims to cut the cost of wind energy in the North Sea to less than €100 ($130) per MWh by 2020 compared with €160 ($209) last year.
The company, owned by the Danish state, drills for and produces oil and natural gas, and operates conventional power plants in Europe, says it can achieve this cost reduction for offshore wind in the U.K. sector of the North Sea. “It’s very challenging, but we think it’s very much a realistic and achievable target,” said Benj Sykes, wind power director for the United Kingdom at Dong. “The cost-of-energy target requires governments to ensure transparent planning, consenting and support regimes up to 2020 and beyond. This will ensure investment certainty, continuous build-out rates and project flow, which will in turn secure maturation of supply chain and technical innovation and investments.”
Dong’s target is actually more ambitious than that of the U.K. government, which wants developers to cut the cost of offshore wind to £100 ($152) per MWh by 2020. It still wouldn’t be as cheap as onshore wind, which currently costs about $85 per MWh, while coal costs $82 and natural gas costs $71. The company aims to achieve its target in the United Kingdom, where it is involved in every aspect of offshore wind, from turbines, array cables, offshore substations and export cables to onshore substations before the power goes to the national transmission grid. At its offshore wind farms in Germany and Denmark, the company is in charge only of the turbines, cables and offshore substations, so it has less scope to control the total cost of energy.
To get to €100 per MWh, Dong plans to radically increase the size of the offshore turbines it will install, from 3 to 4 megawatts currently to 8 to 10 MW in 2016 through 2020. Such turbines don’t even exist yet.