Six things you should know about offshore wind energy

Published 23 November 2022

This is the first blog in our ‘Spotlight: The UK Offshore Renewables Supply Chain’ campaign.

Offshore wind is one of the main renewable energy sources helping the UK tackle climate change. It’s clean, predictable, and sustainable, providing a reliable power source that is decarbonising the UK’s electricity supply. If we are to reach net zero, offshore wind must be one of the main vehicles for getting us there.


What is offshore wind energy?

Offshore wind energy is power taken from the wind at sea and converted into electricity for people on land to use.

The UK is already Europe’s largest market for offshore wind and has invested billions of pounds in the technology. It has the largest installed capacity of offshore wind in the world, with 10GW currently in operation, and the UK Government is targeting four times that amount by 2030.

Why is offshore wind becoming more popular?

Demand for offshore wind is increasing. Not only is it a natural, renewable source of energy, it is cost-efficient, clean and creates jobs.

Here are some of the main reasons offshore wind power is the way forward.

  1. It’s an environmentally friendly energy source
    Offshore wind is leading the renewable energy revolution as a clean, green, energy source with far fewer carbon emissions than fossil fuels. A recent ORE Catapult report identified a 34% carbon saving if new turbines are manufactured using recycled content. Also, as offshore wind sites are far out to sea, there’s less risk of noise and site pollution.
  2. It’s an efficient use of homegrown resources
    The UK is blessed with some of the windiest sea conditions in Europe, with steady, high-speed, consistent winds. Even small increases in wind speed can make a huge difference in energy generation. For example, a turbine in 15mph wind can generate twice as much energy as a turbine in 12mph wind.
  3. It’s cheaper than ever
    The price of offshore wind in the UK has reduced dramatically in recent years and is now one of the cheapest forms of energy generation we have. The steep increase of natural gas prices has driven up household energy bills, meaning people are struggling to heat their homes. The lower prices of homegrown, clean energy such as offshore wind could increase energy security within the UK, and help protect consumers from global fuel price hikes.
  4. Offshore wind boosts the economy through job creation
    The projected growth of renewables on the roadmap to net zero will create new jobs throughout the UK supply chain. One of our recent reports found that 20,000 new jobs in offshore wind could be created across the UK by 2030.
  5. Offshore wind structures can adapt to the site
    For years, offshore wind turbines were based on fixed structures and couldn’t be installed in deep or complex seabed locations. We can now use floating structures anchored to the seabed using chains or steel cables to capture offshore wind. This means we can now access larger and deeper offshore areas with higher wind potential.
  6. It allows more space for construction
    Being at sea means there’s more open space to construct wind farms. The world’s largest wind farm, Hornsea 2, is located 89km off the Yorkshire Coast and generates 1.3GW of energy – enough to power over 1.4 million UK homes. Having more space means larger, but fewer, turbines can be built, saving on construction costs and increasing energy output.

What are the challenges?

There are lots of benefits to offshore wind energy, but there are challenges to overcome as we scale up significantly in the coming years, such as:

  • Ensuring that the impact on local communities is minimised.
  • Creating the right infrastructure to get more electricity from the coast to cities cost-effectively.
  • Ensuring the UK gets the full economic benefit from offshore wind through jobs and supply chain expansion.
  • Working with other sectors who use the sea, like fishing and shipping, and minimising impacts on sealife.

While there are challenges, expanding the potential of offshore wind is achievable, and necessary to create a cleaner, greener future for us all.

Find out how the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult helps to accelerate the creation and growth of UK companies in the offshore renewable energy sector here