The potential of Argentina’s offshore wind power

  • Aug 05, 2020
  • REVE

Argentina is one of the countries with the greatest potential for offshore wind energy in South America.

The latest World Bank report on offshore wind energy indicates that the technical potential of this technology on the planet is 15.6 TW (terawatts), which is distributed at 5.6 TW for fixed-foundation wind turbines and 10 TW for turbines floating. In this context, Argentina is identified as one of the countries with the greatest potential in South America, with possibilities to develop 1,870 GW of offshore wind energy, 1,312 GW with floating wind turbines and 558 GW of fixed bottom. That is, about 15% of its total electricity consumption in 2019.

This technical potential must be subsequently corrected for the social, economic and environmental requirements of each country. However, the World Bank report shows the progressive importance of this renewable source, since the first commercial offshore wind farm was installed in Denmark in 1991.

On the other hand, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has projected that the offshore wind industry –which today has 29 GW of installed capacity, 80% of it in Europe–, will grow 15 times in the next two decades; becoming a $ 1 trillion business (Offshore Wind Outlook 2019).

The offshore wind industry is in full development, driven mainly from Europe, although in recent years China and the United States, among other countries, have joined the boom in the exploitation of the offshore wind. It is true that it is an immature technology, which is in the ascending phase of the learning curve, but the advances that have been made, especially in recent years, allow us to be optimistic about the prompt competitiveness of this energy source.

The offshore wind industry is in full development, driven mainly from Europe, although in recent years China and the United States, among other countries, have joined the boom of the exploitation of the sea wind

In this sense, the technological advance in marine wind turbines is exceptional. While the first offshore wind farm had 11 turbines with a capacity of 450 kW each, today the largest offshore wind park has an installed capacity of 659 MW, divided into 87 8.25 MW turbines. Other wind farms have 10 MW wind turbines, and recently one of the most important offshore wind technology companies presented a latest generation wind turbine, with a 15 MW turbine, which will be commercially available from 2024.

Furthermore, offshore wind farms can operate in ever deeper seas and further from the coast. Current technology allows the installation of fixed-bottom wind turbines at a depth of 50 meters, and floating turbines at 100 meters, and there are projects for floating wind turbines at 220 meters from the sea floor. In the same way, the parks have been moved up to 60 kilometers from the coast, and new projects promoted in Germany and the United Kingdom are being built 100 kilometers offshore (WindEurope Report, 2020).

Investment in technology associated with the industry is also relevant. According to the IEA, by 2030 the total accumulated investment will be 1.2 billion dollars.

The cost reduction of offshore wind has also been significant. From € 150 / MWh in 2014, we went to a price, in 2019, of € 44 / MWh in France and £ 40.63 / MWh in the United Kingdom (WindEurope Report, 2020). In addition, the IEA projects a price decrease of 60% by 2040, and that, therefore, will be competitive with other renewable and fossil fuels from 2030 (IEA, 2019).

The opportunities presented by the offshore wind industry are many. Spain – which announced a couple of days ago that it is fully joining the offshore wind market – has estimated the generation of employment associated with this economic activity at 10,000 jobs.

Investment in technology associated with the industry is also relevant. According to the IEA, by 2030 the total accumulated investment will be 1.2 trillion dollars. In this sense, offshore wind energy is also associated with the development of green hydrogen, as noted by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) in its 2019 yearbook.

From an environmental perspective, offshore wind energy is an important tool in the strategy of climate change. The transition towards a low-carbon energy matrix is ??one of the most important challenges in the sector, and this source is presented as an important option for the substitution of fossil fuels in the 2050 horizon. Furthermore, this energy source reduces the pressure on the territory. of the intensive use of renewable energies, reducing conflicts over the use of land and the environment.

Finally, the need to move towards a new development model, environmentally sustainable, has forced states to rethink their relationship with the oceans and seas. The Blue Economy is making its way, and offshore wind is one of the most projected economic activities in the marine environment.

Various are the incentives that have been used for the development of offshore wind energy. Most European countries provide capital grants to this industry. Prices have also been set, tax benefits are granted or taxes are applied to electricity generated from non-renewable sources

In this context, Argentina, with its extensive coastline, must begin to look with greater interest at the projections of the World Bank, regarding its potential for offshore wind energy. There are multiple incentives for the emergence of the Argentine offshore wind industry. Some of an economic nature, such as the investment generated by this industry, job creation and “blue growth”; others of a technological nature: innovation, scientific development, highly specialized professions or trades and green hydrogen; and also of an environmental nature, for example the decarbonisation of the electrical matrix and the fight against climate change. In all of them, a common element is observed: the transition towards a new development model, towards a low-carbon economy.

Various incentives have been used for the development of offshore wind energy. Most European countries provide capital grants to this industry. Prices have also been set, tax benefits are granted, or taxes are applied to electricity generated from non-renewable sources. In particular, measures such as those adopted by Germany, which decided that transmission system operators should socialize the costs of the offshore network, or the United Kingdom that implemented fixed-term offshore wind power purchase agreements ( generally 3 to 5 years). The choice of incentives must be careful not to boost a hyper-subsidized industry, which will negatively impact the electricity market and the price of electricity.

In this context, Argentina, with its extensive coastline, must begin to look with greater interest at the projections of the World Bank, regarding its potential for offshore wind energy

Likewise, the starting point, as in any new investment-intensive industry, is legal certainty. The regulatory transition that Argentina is experiencing today, in order to adapt its electricity market to the irruption of renewable energies, must give rise to a legal order that accompanies the process of expansion of the electrical matrix of renewable sources in the country and that minimizes the risk regulatory. Only in this way, the Argentine sea will be attractive to investors in the offshore wind industry.

Finally, it is essential that there be clarity on the political decision of the State in favor of the development of this energy source, and not limited to a government decision. Ultimately, the incorporation of offshore wind in the Argentine electricity mix will strengthen the energy transition, placing renewable energies as the engine of change towards a new development model, adapted to the challenges of the climate and the environment.

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