5. Offshore Wind

5.5.1. Economical Factors (Level 2)

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Although accurate figures are not available, OWE suggests that foundations could cost up to 30% more than onshore foundations with other costs roughly 25% higher. Some newer wind farms completed in 2007, such as Arklow Bank (County Wicklow, Ireland), have capital costs of €1.200 - 1.300/kW, which compares more reasonably with onshore wind farms capital costs of €700-1000/kW.

These capital costs per kW (or MW) are expected to become lower in the future due to continuous development of the specialised vessels used for transport and installation of wind turbines. The increasing turbine size (i.e. higher capacity) implies economies of scale. As a result of wind conditions at offshore sites, the overall cost/kWh produced is expected to be lower compared to an inland site.

Technological risks:

Technological trends are towards wind turbines of higher capacity to use offshore (2-2.5 MW or more). There are risks associated with intensive research and development to this end. Although economies of scale exist in the energy production costs, they can increase capital costs and further research and development costs. However, these risks may be overcome with economies of scale and better efficiency of wind turbines due to more stable wind conditions at coastal and offshore sites.

Technological risks are also relevant in the area of component design. In an effort to reduce maintenance costs, there has been research to find replacements for the gearbox, which is a vital and expensive component in a direct-drive system. Such a development would increase the risks due to the yet unproven design of the system.

The financing of projects by investors has been limited due to high capital costs required as a result of the cost of foundations and maintenance cost caused by the remoteness of locations.

llp logoThis project has been funded with support from the European Commission (EU Lifelong Learning Programme Agreement no LLP/LdV/TOI/2009/IRL – 515). This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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