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For the First Time, Offshore Wind Power Will Be Profitable Without Subsidies

In Europe, new tech boosts the appeal of previously pricey offshore wind

4 min read
Photo: Dong Energy
Big British Blades: A platform for installing one of the world’s biggest turbines stands off the east coast of England.
Photo: Dong Energy

[Correction: An earlier version of this post included a map that was labeled incorrectly. It indicated that the countries with transmission links bringing offshore wind power ashore includes Sweden. The wind projects do not, at this time, have a Swedish arm. We apologize for the error.]

Europe’s offshore wind power industry recently achieved a major milestone: three projects to be built without government subsidy. Bent Christensen, who is responsible for energy-cost projections for Siemens’s wind power division, credits industry-wide cost cutting that has outstripped expectations. “We’re three to four years ahead of schedule,” says Christensen.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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