Energy Transition

These are the countries bidding to become wind power superpowers

Windmill at Modou Mountain,Yunnan,China.

The potential to deploy both onshore and offshore wind capacity depends on a country’s geography. Image: Unsplash/ Luo Lei

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Decarbonizing Energy

  • Companies are paying higher and higher prices for sites to install offshore wind farms.
  • Energy firms and governments are looking to expand their global wind power portfolios as they move away from fossil fuels.
  • China leads the world in combined offshore and onshore wind power, with more than a quarter of total global capacity.

As the cost of offshore wind power falls, bids for prime locations to install wind turbines are soaring.

A recent US auction of 488,000 acres (1,974 square kilometres) in the Atlantic Ocean drew bids exceeding $4 billion, a huge increase on the previous auction record in 2018 of less than $500 million.

The auction of six plots in an area known as the New York Bight drew bidders from around the world. It is part of President Joe Biden’s plan for the US to have 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030 – enough to power 10 million homes for a year.

However, the US currently has just two completed offshore wind farms, with combined capacity of just 42 megawatts.

Winds of change

With the US trailing Europe, China and other offshore wind leaders – despite having a strong onshore wind sector – the auction became a magnet for energy sector developers keen to expand their reach.

A European joint venture between German utility RWE and the UK’s National Grid, called Bight Wind Holdings, paid $1.1 billion for the largest of the ocean plots on offer.

Oil giant Shell joined forces with French utility EDF to secure another auction block. And a partnership between EDP Renewables from Portugal and Engie from France successfully bid on another area.

The exponential increase in auction prices for offshore sites indicates the growing enthusiasm for clean energy projects, in light of growing awareness of climate change and the attractive business case for renewables.

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The successful bids for the six US wind farm sites totalled $4.37 billion – a sum exceeding the record $3.7 billion paid for oil and gas drilling rights in US waters, the Financial Times notes.

More auctions are set to follow as part of the Biden administration’s plans to kick-start the country’s fledgling offshore wind industry. This echoes global moves towards greater reliance on energy from offshore wind farms.

China leads the world in offshore wind capacity growth.
China leads the world in offshore wind capacity growth. Image: Statista

The global leaders in offshore wind such as China, Germany and the UK are committed to strong growth, data from the International Energy Agency shows. China expects to add an average of 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind power annually for the next three years.

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Onshore and offshore capacity


The potential to deploy both onshore and offshore wind capacity depends on a country’s geography.

Among the leading offshore wind locations, Britain has plentiful coastlines, Germany can take advantage of its location between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, and China uses its expansive coastal regions to good effect.

But when offshore and onshore wind capacity are combined, a different picture emerges.

Global onshore and offshore wind generation totalled 732 gigawatts by the end of 2020, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

China accounts for more than a quarter of global wind power capacity.
China accounts for more than a quarter of global wind power capacity. Image: Power Technology/GlobalData

China is the world leader in wind power, with more than a quarter of total capacity at 342 gigawatts. This is more than double the country’s total wind capacity in 2015.

China is also home to the world’s largest onshore wind farm in Gansu province, with 10 gigawatts of peak capacity. And South Korea is planning the world’s largest offshore wind development, with 8.2 gigawatts of capacity.

With less than half of China’s combined onshore and offshore wind power capacity, the US had 139 gigawatts installed in 2021. Like China, the country is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, but its wind capacity is growing steadily.

Behind the US, Germany has Europe’s highest installed wind capacity with more than 60 gigawatts. India is fourth in the world with 42 gigawatts, followed by Spain with 29 gigawatts.

Next comes the UK with 26 gigawatts, despite the country being home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the 1.2-gigawatt Hornsea One.

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