The world's installed offshore wind-power capacity is expected to rise dramatically to 70.1 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2017, up from 4.1 GW in 2011, according to a study by Pike Research.
Europe currently leads the industry, having been developing offshore wind for a decade. The UK has the largest installed capacity, with Germany closely following. China is expected to pull even with them by 2017. The US trails, having just recently approved its first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, off the coast of Massachusetts.
Offshore wind costs triple the price of land-based wind, but some of the world's best wind resources are located offshore. Areas with the greatest potential are often in shallow ocean waters relatively close to urban population centers. Interest in freshwater offshore wind is also picking up, especially in the Great Lakes.
Also, many of the best land-based wind resource sites have already been developed. Remaining sites cost more to develop because of less desirable wind resources and long distance transmission costs.
Key factors shaping offshore wind markets over the coming years include: a move toward even larger wind turbines; innovative technologies that reduce operations and maintenance costs; a focus on high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines; and the need to secure new sources of financing.