An athlete swims past the Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Norfolk, England.
Mike Harrington

An athlete swims past the Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Norfolk, England. The wind farm consists of 88 Siemens 3.6 megawatt turbines placed over a 35-square kilometer area, 11 miles from shore.

Offshore Wind Turbines

Winds over sea are more consistent than those over land. Offshore wind turbines tap into that power to generate utility-scale electricity without emissions.

Reduce SourcesElectricityShift Production
10.22 to 9.89
CO2 Equivalent
640.88 to 729.51
Billion US$
Net First Cost
To Implement
651.47 to 768.39
Billion US$
Lifetime Net
Operational Savings
Research Fellows: Abdulmutalib Yussuff, Christine Shearer; Senior Fellow: João Pedro Gouveia; Senior Director: Chad Frischmann


Offshore wind turbines growing from the current estimated 60 terawatt-hours, to 1,850.04–2,175.56 terawatt-hours by 2050, could avoid 10.22–9.89 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This solution can deliver lifetime net operational savings of US$651.47–768.39 billion over three decades of operation associated with net first costs of US$640.88–729.51 billion.


Project Drawdown’s Offshore Wind Turbines solution uses offshore utility-scale wind power technologies to generate electricity. This solution replaces conventional electricity-generating technologies such as coal, oil, and natural gas power plants.

Offshore wind solutions are increasingly being adopted where wind is less intermittent and the turbines can harvest more energy than is the case for onshore wind. Offshore placement increases construction, grid connection, and equipment costs over those of land-based turbines, but the generation potential of offshore turbines is often higher than those of onshore turbines.

Since the amount of power generated by a wind turbine is primarily determined by its size and the intensity of the wind resources, offshore locations are a growing opportunity.


Total Addressable Market

We based the total addressable market for the Offshore Wind Turbines solution on projected global electricity generation from 2020 to 2050. The total addressable market is different for the two adoption scenarios because Scenario 2 projects extensive electrification of transportation, space heating, etc., dramatically increasing demand and therefore production of electricity worldwide.

We estimated the current adoption (defined as the amount of functional demand supplied in 2018) at 0.27 percent of generation (62 terawatt-hours).

Adoption Scenarios

We calculated impacts of increased adoption of offshore wind turbines from 2020 to 2050 by comparing two scenarios with a reference scenario in which the market share was fixed at current levels.

  • Scenario 1: Offshore wind turbines capture 4 percent of the electricity generation market share in 2050 with 1,850.04 terawatt-hours generated. This scenario is based on the evaluation of four ambitious scenarios from IEA (2017) Energy Technology Perspectives 2DS and B2DS scenarios; IEA (2018) World Energy Outlook SDS; and Equinor (2018) Renewal Scenario, using a medium growth trajectory.
  • Scenario 2: Offshore wind turbines capture a 3 percent share of the market in 2050, under a higher total addressable market, with 2,175.56 terawatt-hours of electricity generated. This scenario is supported by these same scenarios, but follows a high-growth trajectory.

Financial Model

All monetary values are presented in 2014 US$.

We used an average installation cost of US$3,485 per kilowatt, a learning rate of 8.2 percent, and an average capacity factor of 39.6 percent for offshore wind turbines, compared with 57 percent for conventional technologies. We set variable operation and maintenance costs at US$0.00.017 per kilowatt-hour and fixed costs at US$99.98 per kilowatt for offshore wind turbines, compared with US$0.005 per kilowatt-hour and US$34.7 per kilowatt for conventional technologies.


To integrate offshore wind turbines with other Project Drawdown solutions, we adjusted the total addressable market for electricity generation to account for reduced demand due to the adoption of energy-efficiency solutions (e.g., LED Lighting and High-Efficiency Heat Pumps) as well as increased electrification from other solutions such as Electric Vehicles and High-Speed Rail. We calculated grid emissions factors based on changes in the annual mix of electricity generating technologies over time. We determined direct and indirect emissions factors for each technology through a meta-analysis of multiple sources.


Scenario 1 has a net first cost to implement of US$640.88 billion from 2020 to 2050 and around US$651.47 billion in savings over the lifetime of the installed technologies. It reduces carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by 10.22 gigatons.

Scenario 2 yields greenhouse gas emission reductions over 2020–2050 of 9.89 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The net first cost to implement is US$729.51 billion from 2020 to 2050 and the solution offers around US$768.39 billion in savings over the lifetime of the installed technologies.


Wind power plays a large and essential role in a low-carbon future: wind has large capability and is globally available, and the outputs of wind and solar are complementary in many regions of the world. Wind does not require mining or drilling for fuel, and its costs are therefore not susceptible to fluctuations in fossil fuel prices.

The growth of offshore wind could be aided by renewable energy and portfolio standards that mandate a certain level of renewable use. Wind developers could also benefit from regulatory stability, such as feed-in tariffs that guarantee a certain rate of return on wind energy and tax incentives that encourage investment by helping offset development costs. Public research and development can also help decrease costs, particularly for this immature technology. Technology knowledge transfer could help spread wind power across borders.


Equinor. (2018). Equinor’s Energy Perspectives 2018: A Call for Action. Equinor. Retrieved from:

IEA (2017). Energy Technology Perspectives 2017 - Catalysing Energy Technology Transformations. International Energy Agency (IEA). Paris, France. Retrieved from:

IEA (2018). World Energy Outlook 2018. International Energy Agency (IEA). Paris, France. Retrieved from: