Wind energy has officially overtaken nuclear power as the most affordable energy option – at least in countries surrounding the North Sea. In nearby European nations, the cost of wind is now 30 percent lower than nuclear, a promising development in the push for renewable energy around the world. At the rate of present installations, industry group WindEurope predicts these wind farms will generate a full 7 percent of all energy within Europe by 2030.
The reason for the drop in price is largely due to the fact that offshore wind farms are becoming cheaper and easier to build. In the past, constructing these farms has been expensive and impractical – and given the relatively low cost of fossil fuels, it simply hasn’t made sense for many companies to invest in the projects. However, the closure of many drilling projects in the North Sea has left offshore installation vehicles without enough work, causing the cost of transporting turbines out to sea to plummet. Other factors which have helped lower the price include low oil and steel prices, reduced maintenance requirements, and the ability to mass produce turbines.
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While these falling wind power costs only represent a small part of the global energy market, there’s no reason other regions can’t build up a similar capacity. China, for instance, has built so many solar and wind facilities that it’s already on track to exceed its own emissions targets by 2020. And while wind power is currently developing at a slower pace in the US, that may not be true for long – new turbine designs could potentially upend the entire industry and fuel exponential growth on the American side of the Atlantic.
Photos via Andreas Klinke Johannsen and m.prinke