Future of Wind: Deployment, investment, technology, grid integration and socio-economic aspects

Wind energy is on a steady rise and could be instrumental in reaching the climate-goals set out for 2050. Continued technological development, combined with sound political focus and an expansion of grid networks are needed to reach the full potential of wind power. 

The report Future of Wind published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), presents options to speed up the deployment of wind power, both onshore and offshore, over the period until 2050. Additionally, the report highlights the growth needed in wind power to achieve the Paris climate goals. It also offers insights on cost-reduction opportunities, technology trends and the need to improve electricity grids for rising shares of wind power.  

Wind energy on the rise 

Deployment of wind power is accelerating worldwide, and wind energy could serve as a vital instrument for achieving the goals set out in the Paris agreement. However, this will necessitate greatly scaling up wind capacity worldwide in coming decades. Technological advances, financial investments and focused policy measures are also highlighted as important drivers for the expansion of wind energy.  

Key statistical findings can be summarized as:  

  • Increased wind power deployment, in combination with increased electrification could deliver a quarter (ca 6,3 gigatons) of the annual CO2 emission reductions needed to achieve the Paris agreement by 2050.  

  • If the world’s installed wind power capacity reaches 6000 gigawatts by 2050, wind power could cover more than one-third (35%) or the worlds electricity needs. This is over 10 times the current levels of deployments and would include 5000 GW of onshore wind and 1000 GW of offshore wind.  

  • Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for onshore wind is estimated to fall to 0.03 USD/kWh by 2050, as compared to 0.06 USD/kWh in 2018. As for offshore wind, there is an estimated drop to 0.07 USD/kWh by 2050 as compared to 0.13 USD/kWh in 2018.  

Offshore wind energy could reach 1000 GW by 2050  

IRENA predicts a rise in wind turbine size from an average of 2.6 MW in 2018 to 5 MW by the year 2050. Furthermore, capacity of offshore turbines could increase to 20MW in the coming decade. By 2050 floating windfarms could cover about 15% of globally installed wind capacity, reaching almost 1000 GW. These numbers are attributed to the continued focus on improving turbine technologies, deployment of higher hub heights, as well as longer blades. 

Predicts Asian domination: could account for more than 60% of global offshore wind energy 

According to the report Asia could grow its share of installed wind energy on shore from 230 GW in 2018, to over 2,6000 GW by 2050. Predictions show that Asia could account for more than 50% of all onshore energy by 2050, and over 60% of global offshore wind capacity. In comparison, Europe would account for just about 10% of the global share. China could take the lead with 2525 GW of combined offshore and onshore wind capacity by 2050, followed by India with 443 GW.  

Policies should support the reallocation of expertise from oil and gas sector  

Analysis show that global wind industry could employ over 3.7 million people by 2030, and more than 6 million people by the year 2050. Such a rise would demand that public focus is given to the areas of education and skill development, which can be instrumental in reallocating and utilization of existing expertise in the oil and gas sector to support the installation of offshore wind foundation structures. 

Grid access, economies of scale and planning procedures among key barriers  

Naming key barriers to achieve a substantial growth in the wind energy sector, the reports underline some important factors such as: grid access, public acceptance, planning procedures and planning uncertainties, economies of scale, access to finance and subsidies for traditional energy. Supporting policies and implementation of measures, including innovative business models and financial instruments, will be vital for boosting wind capacities.  

Read the full report here 




By Manvi Aurora Rohatgi