UK government figures published on 11 September show that the price paid for electricity from offshore wind farms has dropped by more than 50% in just 2 years. This has surpassed expectations. Offshore wind is now the lowest cost option for large-scale, low-carbon power.
The UK’s offshore wind sector has transformed over the last decade. Government support, huge strides in home-grown innovation and increases in both turbine efficiency and blade sizes, have positioned the UK as the largest producer globally as judged by installed capacity.
The rapid decrease has been helped by a number of technical factors.
Wind turbines have more than doubled their power capacity since 2007 – the current generation of 8 MW turbines have 260 foot blades, which with a single rotation generate enough energy to power a home for 24 hours. By the mid-2020s turbine capacities are likely to double again, reaching 15 MW. And offshore wind farms can be built in two or three years, minimising the risk of cost overruns and ensuring that technological advances are adopted quickly.
The cost of offshore wind has plummeted since the last competitive auction results were announced in February 2015, with the new prices on average 47% lower than they were just over two and half years ago. The offshore wind prices announced today are cheaper than the cost of the 35-year contracts for new nuclear power of £92.50/MWh, and cheaper than the levelised cost of gas, according to figures from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The wind farms Hornsea 2 and Moray will begin generating in 2022/23 at £57.50/MWh, and Triton Knoll in 2021/22 at £74.75/MWh, with prices guaranteed for 15 years of an expected project life of 25 years.