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UK offshore wind explainer

Release date:
17 January 2022
With more electricity generated by offshore wind than anywhere else in the world, the UK is at the forefront of the fastest-growing energy source. We take a look at its potential power on the nation’s path to net zero
 
🕒 5 min read | 📖 Feature| 💡 Why it matters

bp and partner EnBW are developing offshore wind projects in two major locations in the UK. A potential 2.9-gigawatt (GW) lease area off the east coast of Scotland, and a 3GW area in the Irish Sea awarded in 2020. Together, these projects have the potential to power almost six million homes. 

 

These offshore wind developments will be critical in supporting the government’s target of producing sufficient offshore wind energy to power every UK home by the end of this decade. It is putting the fastest-growing energy source at the centre of its 10-point plan for a ‘green industrial revolution’ and pledging to transform the UK into the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’. To get there, it plans to quadruple current offshore capacity to 40GW by 2030.

The UK has the most offshore wind installations, 28.9%, according to the UK Wind Energy Database, with China a close second at 28.3%1. In 2021, wind energy generated an impressive 21.4% of the UK’s electricity, according to the National Grid (which combines on and offshore wind in its figures).2


In fact, last year was a record year for wind energy in the UK. On 21 May, its share of the electricity generation mix was a staggering 62.1%.3

What makes the UK a wind wonder? 

As the gustiest country in Europe, the UK is ideally located to harness the power of wind.

 

Onshore wind turbines are well established in the UK and are now a common sight, dotted along hills, fields and even beside motorways. In the past decade, onshore wind generation has exeeded offshore but that gap has narrowed each year. For the next decade, the incredible generating power of offshore wind is really set to take off. 

 

Offshore, the wind speed and direction is stronger and consistent, meaning it can generate more power. But until recently, offshore developments have not been cost-effective. 

 

Offshore wind, once relatively expensive compared to onshore wind or solar, has seen a sharp reduction in capital costs (in 2020, around 65% lower than a UK project five years ago4). This cost reduction comes in part due to the use of much larger turbines and technological advances, such as development of lithium-ion batteries, an essential element in ensuring continuity of supply from weather-dependent sources.

 

Best blade plans

The UK isn’t the only country with full-blown wind energy plans. Across the world, offshore wind keeps growing, with capacity set to expand by 13% each year over the next two decades5.

💡 Why it matters

Development of offshore wind power will play a key role in the UK government’s plans for a ‘green energy revolution’  ̶  a plan bp strongly supports. 

 

Our first move into the offshore wind sector came in 2020, when we signed a deal with Equinor to develop projects in the fast-growing US market. We then expanded our portfolio in the UK in 2021, and have now been successful in our transformational ScotWind bid to build offshore wind capacity off the coast of Aberdeen. It’s another step towards achieving our aim to grow developed renewable generating capacity from 2.5GW in 2019 to 50GW by 2030.

Accelerating Scotland’s energy transition

bp and our partner, EnBW, have been awarded a lease option off the east coast of Scotland to develop a major offshore wind project – to be known as Morven. The award was made in the highly competitive ScotWind leasing round, the results of which were announced by Crown Estate Scotland in January 2022. 

 

The successful ScotWind bid gives the two companies the option to lease an  ̴̴860-square-kilometre area about 60 kilometres off the coast from Aberdeen. Located in an advantaged area in shallow water, it allows the partners to develop a fixed-bottom offshore wind project with a total generating capacity of around 2.9GW, sufficient to power more than 3 million homes. 

Morven is expected to support £10 billion ($14 billion) of investment in offshore wind development, skills and opportunities in hydrogen and EV charging, as well as accelerating Scotland energy transition. 

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