A study published in the Nature Journal is forecasting a 24-30% decrease in wind energy costs by 2030 and 35-41% by 2050 according to 163 of the world’s foremost wind experts. Additionally, the experts predicted a 10% chance that reductions in cost could be more than 40% by 2030 and more than 50% by 2050.
The study was conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in collaboration with several Universities and agencies through online surveys that were completed between October and December 2015.
The focus of the assessments were on 3 types of wind energy applications: onshore, offshore fixed bottom and offshore floating and looking at the levelized cost of energy (LCOE). According to the study, “respondents rated 28 different drivers on the basis of their expected impact on LCOE”, which varied between all 3 applications. Rotor size and hub height were believed to be the leading drivers of LCOE for onshore wind, while increased turbine capacities and design advancements in foundation were drivers for fixed bottom offshore. The drivers for floating offshore wind were believed to be (and very similarly to fixed bottom) design advancements in foundation and installation process efficiencies.
The study tried to avoid bias wherever and however possible but noticed that expectations for reduced costs were much higher for onshore wind than for offshore when compared to current literature estimates.
According to the report: Some of the variation in expert-specific responses can be explained by segmenting respondents into various categories. For example, as shown in the Supplementary Discussion, a smaller group identified as ‘leading experts’ generally expects more aggressive wind energy cost reductions (27% reductions for onshore wind by 2030 in the median case, 35% for fixed-bottom offshore, and 38% for floating offshore) than the larger set of other survey respondents less that ‘leading-experts’ group (24% for onshore, 29% for fixed-bottom, 15% for floating). Wind equipment manufacturers, on the other hand, are more cautious about nearer-term advancement possibilities, especially for fixed-bottom offshore wind, although those differences narrow by 2050. Although the differences identified here are notable, it is also important that the results from most respondent groups—by organization, by region, and by expertise type—vary only to a small degree, suggesting that any biases in the survey results are either limited or apply broadly and similarly across most of the wind expert respondent groupings.
As the study explains, only time will tell what will really become of the LCOE of each of these wind energy applications.