North Central Traverse Wind Farm 2021
Turbines will continue to grow larger, costs will significantly decline, and wind power development projects will more frequently be paired with batteries or hydrogen production.
Those are the results of a survey of 140 of the world's leading wind power experts, who were asked to predict what the industry will look like in 2035.
The survey was conducted by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Cost reductions were anticipated across the board for wind power. The experts who were surveyed believed the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) would decline 27% for onshore and 17-35% for offshore wind by 2035 when compared to today's numbers. Those trends are expected in spite of the likelihood that future projects will be sited in less-attractive wind areas.
In particular, the experts forecasted that the median global annual average wind speeds for new onshore projects would fall from 7.9 meters per second (m/s) in 2019 to 7.5 m/s in 2035.
A countervailing trend is that turbine capacity ratings, hub heights, and rotor diameters all are likely to get larger, the experts said.
Average onshore wind turbine capacity is expected to grow from 2.5 MW in 2018 to 5.5 MW in 2035. Offshore wind turbines are expected to dwarf their onshore counterparts by 2035, growing from 4.4 MW in 2018 to 17 MW in 2035. Some 40% of survey respondents predicted that the typical offshore wind turbine installed in 2035 would be 20 MW or larger.
Onshore wind turbines are also expected to have higher hub height (130m in 2035 vs. 100m in 2018) and larger rotor diameter (175m in 2035 vs. 117m in 2018). Offshore wind turbines will see even more growth in hub height (151m in 2035 vs. 90m in 2018) and rotor diameter (250m in 2035 vs. 132m in 2018).
The team of researchers also asked the global experts for likely industry constraints that they expect to exist in 2035. Respondents identified permitting, transportation, and community acceptance as issues facing onshore wind; offshore wind will have to address challenges related to the costs of ocean-going vessels, construction cranes, and supply and service port facilities.
Regional differences existed, however. North American wind projects were expected to be more likely to struggle with transportation, vessels, cranes, and ports. European wind projects were expected to face greater challenges due to community acceptance.