For all its promise, however, offshore wind remains mostly a European affair, with WindEurope data showing more than 12.6 gigawatts of capacity installed across 81 projects in 10 countries at the end of 2016. The picture is beginning to change, however.
Nations from Australia to India are reported to be harboring offshore wind plans. Denmark's MAKE Consulting, a wind consulting group owned by GTM's parent company, expects more than 10 gigawatts of yearly offshore wind projects around the world by 2026.
Between 2017 and 2026, Asia will be nearly tied with Europe in new offshore wind capacity development, according to MAKE.
Feng Zhao, a Copenhagen-based senior director at FTI Consulting, agrees that Asia is the place to look for new activity that can rival Europe.
Here are his choices for the top five emerging markets in offshore wind.
As with onshore, China is quietly racing ahead in offshore wind deployment. The country had installed more than 1.6 gigawatts of offshore capacity at the end of 2016 and should end up with around 900 megawatts more by the end of the year.
Next year, it is due to pass 1 gigawatt of installations per year as part of a five-year plan to have 5 gigawatts grid-connected by 2020, plus another 10 gigawatts under construction.
Between 2017 and 2026, China is on target to install 13 gigawatts, bringing its total capacity to nearly 10 times today’s level. In the medium term, said Zhao, “It’s the only market that can compete with the U.K. and Germany in terms of market size.”
It’s not an easy one for foreign vendors to crack, though, with the lion’s share of projects going to Chinese original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Goldwind.
Taiwan’s offshore aspirations made headlines this year when the country declared a target of 3 gigawatts of capacity to be built by 2025.
The level is paltry compared to what is happening in neighboring China, but for leading OEMs, the big attraction is that Taiwan is an open market with no incumbent players to dominate when it comes to winning contracts. FTI Consulting estimates that growth in the market will ramp up slowly.
Today there are only two offshore turbines operating in the country, and two projects totaling 320 megawatts are due to be in place by 2020. FTI Consulting forecasts close to 2.6 gigawatts, less than the government target, to be completed by 2026.
Beyond that, it remains to be seen if the country will achieve an ambitious 2030 target of 4 gigawatts, which is a third higher than the original plan set out by Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs in 2013.
Much has been said about Japan’s offshore wind ambitions. But the reality on the ground (or rather, in the sea) is well below what might have been expected from a country that has been pursuing offshore wind since 2010.
Only 61 megawatts of capacity had been installed by the end of 2016, and “for the next two years, we don’t expect any utility-scale offshore wind projects to [come] on-line,” said Zhao.
However, following am update to the country's Port and Harbor Law which opens previously restricted port areas to offshore wind, two projects have won auctions.
One is a 229-megawatt near-shore plant being built by utility company Kyuden Mirai at Hibikinada, and the other is a 93.6-megawatt project that has been picked up by a consortium including Hitachi Windpower after being dropped by Marubeni Corporation in January.
A further 1.3 gigawatts of projects are waiting to go through environmental impact assessments. But in Japan, gaining environmental permits “takes four years,” Zhao said.
“We forecast 1.3 gigawatts to be built in the next 10 years, despite nearly 2.5 gigawatts currently under planning.”
For all its industrial might and maritime muscle, South Korea has so far only mustered a couple of offshore wind prototypes and a single demonstration project, totaling 35 megawatts.
Only one plant, 96.8 megawatts on a tidal flat in Saemangeum, is expected to be built in the next two years.
However, the market is worthy of attention. Last month, South Korea announced a move away from coal and nuclear power. This should boost renewables, including offshore wind.
“It is technically possible to bring 1 gigawatt on-line between 2017 and 2026, following the new president's political commitment on the country's transition to renewables,” said Zhao.
The U.S. certainly has an emerging offshore wind market, but it's unclear how promising it is. Last year saw 30 megawatts installed -- America’s first offshore wind project.
But no offshore wind turbines are expected to be installed this year, and only two Department of Energy-sponsored projects, totaling 32.7 megawatts, and one 12-megawatt test project, are likely to be built before 2020.
Construction of utility-scale projects is not expected to begin until around 2021 or 2022. And although the U.S. could be adding up to 800 megawatts of capacity per year by 2025 or 2026, a lot of things could change that outlook in the meantime.