The world’s first unsubsidized offshore wind farms are currently under construction in the Netherlands. The underlying economics of offshore wind energy have become so favorable in the country that the projects will require no public funds to be completed. “Thanks to drastically lower costs, offshore wind farms are now being constructed without subsidy,” Dutch Economic Affairs and Climate Minister Eric Wiebes told Climate Action. “This allows us to keep the energy transition affordable. Innovation and competition are making sustainable energy cheaper and cheaper, and much faster than expected too.”
Scheduled to begin operations in 2022, the two wind farms are being built by Swedish energy firm Vattenfall. The electricity created by the wind farms will be sold on the open market, competing with fossil fuels. The wind farms will be located 14 miles off the coast of the Netherlands and will fill an area of 137 square miles. Once operational, the farms will produce enough energy to power 1.5 million homes. While the wind farms are being billed as subsidy-free, their construction benefited from the Dutch government accepting some risks involved in the project, such as covering the cost of grid connection.
The Netherlands has taken swift action to develop its clean energy capabilities. In 2017, the 600-megawatt, 150-turbine Gemini wind park off the Dutch coast opened as one of the largest wind farms in the world. “As a country we were heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and our way to renewables has been bumpy,” Dutch minister for the environment Sharon Dijksma told MIT Technology Review. “So this government decided that we needed to step up the pace.” The low-lying European country has much at stake in how the world deals with climate change. If the Netherlands were to face a powerful flood, “we would have a massive breakdown, it would tear the country into pieces and the economy would collapse,” Dijksma said. “So this Armageddon scenario has to be fought against.”