Survey Reveals Projections for Lower Wind Energy Costs

October 24, 2016

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According to a survey of 163 of the world’s foremost wind power experts, continued advancements in wind energy technology are anticipated to reduce the cost of generating electricity by 24%–30% by 2030 and 35%–41% by 2050. With market growth and aggressive research and development, costs could be even lower: experts predict a 10% chance that reductions could reach more than 40% by 2030 and more than 50% by 2050.

These findings are detailed in Expert elicitation survey on future wind energy costs, a new study published in the journal Nature Energy and conducted by researchers at the Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and NREL, researchers at the University of Massachusetts, and participants in the International Energy Agency Wind Technology Collaboration Programme Task 26.

Illustration of a survey of international wind power experts forecasting wind energy costs and cost drivers.

Conducted to gain insight into the possible magnitude, sources, and enabling conditions of future wind energy cost reductions, the study focused on land-based, fixed-bottom offshore, and floating offshore wind technologies. Experts surveyed foresee future cost decreases driven by continued reductions in the upfront cost of wind projects (capital expenditures), as well as increases in wind project performance (capacity factor), reductions in operating costs (operational expenditures), improvements in the cost of financing (e.g., reductions in the weighted-average cost of capital), and project design-life extensions.

Focusing on offshore wind, reductions in the levelized cost of energy differ somewhat for fixed-bottom and floating technology, as shown in the figure. Important in both cases is increased turbine size: nameplate capacity, hub height, and rotor diameter are all expected to grow substantially as the industry matures. Foundation and support structure design, installation, and cost of financing improvements are also noted as key points of leverage to reduce costs.

Despite uncertainty illustrated by the range of expert views, the results of this study suggest significant opportunities for lower future costs. This conclusion should help inform our understanding of the long-term contribution of wind power to the future energy supply, as well as the degree to which policy support might be needed to facilitate continued deployment.

For more information, read the Nature Energy article.