There’s record capacity growth for offshore wind as it continues to play a vital role in global energy transition

The year 2021 was another record year for the sector both for capacity and vessel demand

Offshore wind growth

Source: SteKrueBe/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

The year 2021 was another record year for the sector both for capacity and vessel demand

Research released by the data analyse firm Clarksons Research shows 2021 saw record start-ups for the industry (84 farms, 18.5 GW, 3,400 turbines) increasing global active capacity by 58% to an all time high of 50.5 GW.

”This takes offshore wind to approximately 0.3% of total global energy supply: our energy transition modelling suggests this could reach 6-9% by 2050 and generate 4,870 TWh to 5,990 TWh of power,” said Steve Gordon, managing director of Clarksons Research.

Industry intelligence

Mr Gordon said that China led the way for new capacity additions and overtook the UK as the largest offshore wind market, with 16 GW coming online, mostly in the final two months of the year, ahead of the expiry of a government subsidy deadline at the end of the year.

New capacity additions were more modest in Europe, as 1.8 GW was fully commissioned, with 17 GW currently under development in the region. .

In addition, offshore wind project CAPEX commitments reached US$44.6bn in 2021, the second highest total on record, with a number of significant projects reaching FID, including the first utility scale offshore wind project in the US - Vineyard Wind.

In Europe alone, US$18.7bn of project CAPEX was committed to offshore wind projects, compared to the US$10.3bn committed to offshore oil and gas projects.

The wind vessel market also continued to evolve, reaching nearly 1,100 vessels by year end.

Global WTIV utilisation averaged 83% in the year, while exceptional demand for vessels off China consistently kept utilisation over 90% in the second half of the year.

Rates responded, with the average dayrate assessment for thirrd generation WTIVs in Europe up 18% across the year besides increases in the C/SOV market also. Dayrates reportedly quadrupled off Guangdong in China in the middle of the year.

Record newbuild investment developed during 2021, with over US$4bn of orders placed and increasing focus on alternative fuels and energy saving technologies. This included over 17 WTIV newbuild contracts placed totalling US$2.5bn, the highest yearly total on record. Fifteen C/SOVs were ordered totalling US$0.8bn, also the highest number on record.


Meanwhile, both OEMs and wind farm developers came under pressure from rising material costs in 2021. Lower than average wind speeds in much of Europe also limited power output from offshore wind farms, reducing the volumes that operators could sell into the market. 

Power prices in Europe surged in 2021, due to a tightness of gas supplies and lower average wind speeds. 

”In 2022, we are projecting a healthy 9.5 GW of offshore wind capacity come online (involving 1,400 turbines), bringing the fully commissioned global total to 60.0 GW. Offshore wind CAPEX commitments are expected to total some US$55bn, just below the record of US$56bn in 2020,” said Mr Gordon.

”Our longer term projections suggest that the global offshore wind sector may reach 712 farms involving over 29,000 turbines and 235 GW by 2030.”

This is up from the current capacity of 250 farms which have 10,800 turbines totalling a power output of 50.5 GW.