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Solar and offshore wind-energy sources set for huge global growth

Technology gains, cost reductions, and government support are driving expansion, IEA report says

by Jeff Johnson
October 28, 2019

Photo of an offshore wind turbine with a semisubmersible platform foundation.
Credit: John BAuer, US National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Floating foundations, such as the semisubmersible design shown here, will allow offshore wind turbine installation in deeper water.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts offshore wind- and solar-power generation systems are likely to experience unprecedented expansion over the next several years.

In a report on renewable energy, the IEA forecasts that the world’s total renewable-based power capacity will grow by 50% between 2019 and 2024. This increase of 1,200 GW—equivalent to the current total power capacity of the US—is driven by cost reductions, technological breakthroughs, and concerted government policy efforts.

Overall, the share of renewables in global power generation is set to rise from 26% today to 30% in 2024. Most of the increase—60%—will come from solar photovoltaic installations including commercial, industrial, and home applications.

The predicted renewable-energy expansions, however, remain well below what is needed to meet global sustainable-energy targets, the IEA says.

In a separate report on offshore wind power, IEA analysts find that offshore wind capacity is likely to increase 15-fold and attract around $1 trillion in cumulative investments by 2040. The report credits technological gains, such as larger turbines and floating foundations, as well as falling costs and government support.

The report notes that between 2010 and 2018, the global offshore-wind market grew nearly 30% per year, led by the United Kingdom, Germany, and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018. Offshore wind has the potential to generate annually more than 18 times today’s global electricity demand, the report says.



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