• The US is set to power 10 million homes from a series of offshore wind farms.
  • Global offshore wind has grown from 2.2 gigawatts in 2016 to 6.1 gigawatts in 2020.
  • The UK has the most offshore wind capacity of any country.
  • But unless current plans are immediately accelerated, the world will miss the target of net zero by 2050, says the Global Wind Energy Council.

The international offshore wind market is booming, says the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), from 2.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2016 to 6.1GW in 2020. This is due, it explains in its Global Wind Report 2021, to new installations and developments in China and the US.

Although it has been slow to adopt wind power, the US is now playing catch-up. By 2030, around 10 million American homes could be getting their power from a series of colossal offshore wind farms along the country’s Atlantic coast. The first of which would be located off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in the eastern state of Massachusetts.

a chart showing the new wind power capacity in 2020, by region as percentages
The APAC region has the greatest wind-power capacity.
Image: GWEC Global Wind Report 2021

A windy outlook for the US

Known as Vineyard Wind, the development took an important step forward when an environmental review of the project was completed by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on 8 May 2021. Under the previous US administration, it had been delayed repeatedly, according to a report in the New York Times. It is expected to be completed by 2023 and will comprise 84 wind turbines generating 800 megawatts of electricity.

In total, 13 offshore wind farms are being considered along the eastern coast of the US, including an estimated 2,000 turbines. The White House claims that the proposed wind farms could “avoid 78 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions,” according to the New York Times.

a chart showing that annual wind installations must increase dramatically to reach net zero by 2050
Drastic change is needed to meet the required goals by 2050.
Image: GWEC Global Wind Report 2021

Leading the charge

New offshore wind developments accounted for 7% of all new wind power installations in 2020, GWEC says – down slightly as a proportion of the overall, but only because of the growth of on-shore generation.

China is the world leader in terms of the number of new offshore wind developments completed each year, and added more than 3GW to its offshore power capacity in 2020. It is now the second largest offshore wind market, having pushed Germany into third place, GWEC says. The UK has the most offshore wind capacity of any country, giving it the number one spot in the worldwide rankings.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.

Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including, Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) is working to assemble public and private partners to further the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions Commission.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

Another country singled out for praise by GWEC is South Korea.

In February 2021, South Korea announced plans to build an 8.2GW offshore wind farm at a cost of $43.2 billion. “With this project, we are accelerating the eco-friendly energy transition and moving more vigorously toward carbon neutrality,” the country’s president, Moon Jae-in, told journalists gathered at the signing ceremony for the plan. It is part of the Green New Deal South Korea hopes will make the country carbon neutral by 2050.

When completed, in 2030, the South Korean wind farm will be the world’s largest, dwarfing the 1.12GW generating capacity of the UK’s Hornsea 1 power plant, which is currently the biggest offshore wind farm anywhere.

But, GWEC warns in its report, current policies are not being implemented swiftly or boldly enough – and unless countries immediately accelerate their plans, “we might reach 2.1C and will miss a net zero by 2050 target”.