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WIREs Energy Environ.
Impact Factor: 3.803

Wind power costs driven by innovation and experience with further reductions on the horizon

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Abstract The costs of wind power have declined to levels on par with or below those of conventional sources in many parts of the world. Wind power has become one of the fastest‐growing sources of new electricity generation. We take stock of wind power cost evolution over the past 20 years, review methodologies commonly used for cost assessment, discuss the potential for continued cost reduction, and identify anticipated cost and value drivers. Our scope includes both onshore and offshore wind technologies. We draw from a vast body of literature on these topics to highlight key trends, approaches, and limitations. Furthermore, we discuss strategies for wind power assets to enhance their marginal economic value to the broader power system and consumers. We identify a myriad of factors that are expected to influence the future cost and value of wind power, including siting, project scale, turbine size, operational synergies, commodity prices, advancements in turbine technologies, enhanced management of the wind resource, and novel control technologies that provide value for the electricity grid. Because the common methods for forecasting future costs each have their own strengths and weaknesses, we find the best insights are elicited from a combination of methods. Overall, researchers and analysts anticipate further sizable cost reductions for onshore and offshore wind. Midrange forecasts for levelized cost of energy in 2050 are generally between $20 and $30/MWh for onshore wind and $40 and $60/MWh for offshore wind, a reduction to approximately half of today's levels. Optimistic forecasts anticipate these levels as early as 2030. This article is categorized under: Wind Power > Economics and Policy
Capital and O&M expenditures as % of LCOE for onshore (left) and offshore (right) reference projects. Expenditures of LCOE expressed in % after converting CapEx and OpEx to $/MWh using the net capacity factor and fixed charge rate (real) reported in Stehly and Beiter (2019)Source: Reproduced from Stehly and Beiter (2019)
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Average wind power plant capacity for onshore projects in the United States and the European Union between 2007 and 2018 (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2019; Wiser, Bolinger, et al., 2020)
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Selected onshore wind turbines (high to low specific power) and resulting capacity factors in three EU countries with diverging wind resources and hub heights (left: hub height at 100 m; right: diverging hub heights) (Telsnig, 2020)
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Relative cost reduction expectation from historical learning and expert prediction; “LR” refers to the estimated LCOE learning rateSource: Reproduced with permission from Wiser, Jenni, et al. (2016)
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Range of LCOE estimates for offshore wind LCOE (2010–2050)Source: Chart reproduced with data from DNV GL (2020), NREL (2020), IRENA (2020), IEA (2020), BNEF (2020), and Wood Mackenzie (2019)
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Range of LCOE estimates for onshore wind (2010–2050)Source: Chart reproduced with data from DNV GL (2020), NREL (2020b), IRENA (2020), IEA (2020), and BNEF (2020)
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LCOE relative to total installed capacity (1983–2019)Source: GWEC (2020), IRENA (2020), and Wind Energy International (2018)
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