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Wind energy costs could drop by more than half by mid-century

The cost of wind energy will drop by nearly 50 percent within the next three decades, according to a study led by the Berkeley Lab. The experts report that cost reductions will be driven by technological and commercial advancements, including bigger and more efficient turbines, as well as lower capital and operating costs.

The researchers surveyed 140 wind experts on three wind applications – onshore wind, fixed-bottom offshore wind, and floating offshore wind. For all three types of wind energy, the anticipated future costs are half what experts predicted in a similar study in 2015. 

“Wind has experienced accelerated cost reductions in recent years, both onshore and offshore, making previous cost forecasts obsolete. The energy sector needs a current assessment,” said Ryan Wiser, senior scientist at Berkeley Lab.

“Our ‘expert elicitation’ survey complements other methods for evaluating cost-reduction potential by shedding light on how cost reductions might be realized and by clarifying the important uncertainties in these estimates.”

In January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aiming to maximize offshore wind potential. He has identified wind power as a key component of the nation’s renewed efforts to combat climate change. 

The results of the survey indicate that across the three wind applications studied, there will be cost reductions of 17 to 35 percent by 2035, and reductions of 37 to 49 percent by 2050, compared to costs in 2019.

According to the researchers, there is substantial room for continued improvement, and costs could drop even lower. The experts predict a 10 percent chance that cost reductions could reach up to 53 percent by 2035 and as high as 64 percent by 2050. At the same time, there are some uncertainties involved with the projections.

“All else being equal, these trends will enable wind to play a larger role in global energy supply than previously thought while facilitating energy-sector decarbonization,” said study co-author Joachim Seel. 

“Analysts, investors, planners, and policymakers should avoid outdated assumptions and forecasts.” At the same time, as documented in the study, uncertainties in the magnitude of future cost reduction are significant, illustrating the importance of embedding uncertainty considerations in modeling and in policy, planning, investment, and research decisions.

The study is published in the journal Nature Energy

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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