Wind energy supply has grown rapidly over the last decade. However, the long-term contribution of wind to future energy supply, and the degree to which policy support is necessary to motivate higher levels of deployment, depends—in part—on the future costs of both onshore and offshore wind. Here, we summarize the results of an expert elicitation survey of 163 of the world’s foremost wind experts, aimed at better understanding future costs and technology advancement possibilities. Results suggest significant opportunities for cost reductions, but also underlying uncertainties. Under the median scenario, experts anticipate 24–30% reductions by 2030 and 35–41% reductions by 2050 across the three wind applications studied. Costs could be even lower: experts predict a 10% chance that reductions will be more than 40% by 2030 and more than 50% by 2050. Insights gained through expert elicitation complement other tools for evaluating cost-reduction potential, and help inform policy and planning, R&D and industry strategy.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $4.92 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Wiser, R. & Bolinger, M. 2015 Wind Technologies Market Report (US Department of Energy, 2016).
Wiser, R. et al. in IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (eds Edenhofer, O. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011).
Global Wind Report: Annual Market Update 2015 (Global Wind Energy Council, 2016).
Marvel, K., Kravitz, B. & Caldeira, K. Geophysical limits to global wind power. Nat. Clim. Change 3, 118–121 (2012).
Barthelmie, R. J. & Pryor, S. C. Potential contribution of wind energy to climate change mitigation. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 684–688 (2014).
Cochran, J., Mai, T. & Bazilian, M. Meta-analysis of high-penetration renewable energy scenarios. Renew. Sust. Energy Rev. 29, 246–253 (2014).
IPCC Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change (eds Edenhofer, O., Pichs-Madruga, R. & Sokona, Y. ) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).
Luderer, G. et al. The role of renewable energy in climate stabilization: results from the EMF27 scenarios. Climatic Change 123, 427–441 (2014).
World Energy Outlook 2015 (International Energy Agency, 2015); http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/weo2015
Global Wind Energy Outlook 2014 (Global Wind Energy Council, 2014); http://www.gwec.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/GWEO2014_WEB.pdf
MacDonald, A. et al. Future cost-competitive electricity systems and their impact on US CO2 emissions. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 526–531 (2016).
Lindman, Å. & Söderholm, P. Wind power learning rates: a conceptual review and meta-analysis. Energy Econ. 34, 754–761 (2012).
Rubin, E. S., Azevedo, I., Jaramillo, P. & Yeh, S. A review of learning rates for electricity supply technologies. Energy Policy 86, 198–218 (2015).
Ferioli, F., Schoots, K. & Van der Zwaan, B. C. C. Use and limitations of learning curves for energy technology policy: a component-learning hypothesis. Energy Policy 37, 2525–2535 (2009).
Mukora, A., Winskel, M., Jeffrey, H. F. & Mueller, M. Learning curves for emerging energy technologies. Proc. Institution of Civil Engineers – Energy 162, 151–159 (2009).
Ek, K. & Söderholm, P. Technology learning in the presence of public R&D: the case of European wind power. Ecol. Econ. 69, 2356–2362 (2010).
Junginger, M., Sark, W. V. & Faaij, A. Technological Learning in the Energy Sector: Lessons for Policy, Industry and Science (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Yeh, S. & Rubin, E. S. A review of uncertainties in technology experience curves. Energy Econ. 34, 762–771 (2012).
Witajewski-Baltvilks, J., Verdolini, E. & Tavoni, M. Bending the learning curve. Energy Econ. 52, S86–S99 (2015).
Arrow, K. J. The economic implications of learning by doing. Rev. Econ. Studies 29, 155–173 (1962).
Nordhaus, W. D. The Perils of the Learning Model for Modeling Endogenous Technological Change (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2009).
Fingersh, L., Hand, M. & Laxson, A. Wind Turbine Design Cost and Scaling Model (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2006).
Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Pathways Study (The Crown Estate, 2012); https://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/media/5493/ei-offshore-wind-cost-reduction-pathways-study.pdf
Sieros, G., Chaviaropoulos, P., Sørensen, J., Bulder, B. & Jamieson, P. Upscaling wind turbines: theoretical and practical aspects and the impact on the cost of energy. Wind Energy 15, 3–17 (2010).
Hobohm, J. et al. Cost Reduction Potentials of Offshore Wind Power in Germany. Prepared for the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation (Fitchner-Prognos, 2013).
Valpy, B. & English, P. Future Renewable Energy Costs: Offshore Wind (BVG Associates and KIC InnoEnergy, 2014).
Junginger, M., Faaij, A. & Turkenburg, W. C. Cost reduction prospects for offshore wind farms. Wind Eng. 28, 97–118 (2004).
Cost Reduction Options for Offshore Wind in the Netherlands FID 2010–2020 (TKI Wind op Zee, 2015); http://www.tki-windopzee.nl/files/2015-10/151028-tki-offshore-wind-cost-reduction-final-stc.pdf
Cohen, J. et al. Technology Improvement Opportunities for Low Wind Speed Turbines and Implications for Cost of Energy Reduction (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2008).
Neij, L. Cost development of future technologies for power generation—A study based on experience curves and complementary bottom-up assessments. Energy Policy 36, 2200–2211 (2008).
Wüstemeyer, C., Madlener, R. & Bunn, D. W. A stakeholder analysis of divergent supply-chain trends for the European onshore and offshore wind installations. Energy Policy 80, 36–44 (2015).
Verdolini, E., Anadon, L. D., Baker, E., Bosetti, V. & Reis, L. A. The Future Prospects of Energy Technologies: Insights from Expert Elicitations (Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, 2016); http://www.feem.it/userfiles/attach/2016751147214NDL2016-047.pdf
Morgan, M. G. Use (and abuse) of expert elicitation in support of decision making for public policy. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 7176–7184 (2014).
Kotra, J. P., Lee, M. P., Eisenberg, N. A. & DeWispelare, A. R. Branch Technical Position on the Use of Expert Elicitation in the High-Level Radioactive Waste Program (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 1996).
Meyer, M. A. & Booker, J. M. Eliciting and Analyzing Expert Judgment: A Practical Guide (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, 2001).
Knol, A. B., Slottje, P. E., van der Sluijs, J. P. & Lebret, E. The use of expert elicitation in environmental health impact assessment: a seven step procedure. Environ. Health 9, http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1476-069X-9-19 (2010).
Hora, S. in Advances in Decision Analysis: From Foundations to Applications (eds Edwards, W., Miles, R. F. & von Winterfeldt, D. ) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).
Coppersmith, K. J., Jenni, K. E., Perman, R. C. & Youngs, R. R. in Volcanic and Tectonic Hazard Assessment for Nuclear Facilities (eds Connor, C. B., Chapman, N. A. & Connor, L. J. ) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009).
Climate Change Assessments: Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCC (InterAcademy Council, 2010).
NRC Prospective Evaluation of Applied Energy Research and Development at DOE (Phase Two) (The National Academies, 2007).
Baker, E., Bosetti, V., Anadon, L. D., Henrion, M. & Reis, L. A. Future costs of key low-carbon energy technologies: Harmonization and aggregation of energy technology expert elicitation data. Energy Policy 80, 219–232 (2015).
Gillenwater, M. Probabilistic decision model of wind power investment and influence of green power market. Energy Policy 63, 1111–1125 (2013).
Kempton, W., McClellan, S. & Ozkan, D. Massachusetts Offshore Wind Future Cost Study (Univ. Delaware Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, 2016).
Curtright, A. E., Morgan, M. G. & Keith, D. Expert assessment of future photovoltaic technology. Environ. Sci. Technol. 42, 9031–9038 (2008).
Joskow, P. L. Comparing the costs of intermittent and dispatchable electricity generating technologies. Am. Econ. Rev. 100, 238–241 (2011).
Edenhofer, O. et al. On the economics of renewable energy sources. Energy Econ. 40, S12–S23 (2013).
Mills, A. & Wiser, R. Changes in the economic value of wind energy and flexible resources at increasing penetration levels in the Rocky Mountain Power Area. Wind Energy 16, 1711–1726 (2013).
The Future Cost of Onshore Wind – An Accelerating Rate of Progress. Wind Insight (Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2015).
Criqui, P., Mima, S., Menanteau, P. & Kitous, A. Mitigation strategies and energy technology learning: an assessment with the POLES model. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change 90, 119–136 (2015).
Henbest, S. et al. New Energy Outlook 2015 Wind (Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2015).
Voormolen, J. A., Junginger, H. M. & van Sark, W. G. J. H. M. Unravelling historical cost developments of offshore wind energy in Europe. Energy Policy 88, 435–444 (2016).
van der Zwaan, B. C. C., Rivera-Tinoco, R., Lensink, S. & van den Oosterkamp, P. Cost reductions for offshore wind power: exploring the balance between scaling, learning and R&D. Renew. Energy 41, 389–393 (2012).
Dismukes, D. E. & Upton, G. B. Jr Economies of scale, learning effects and offshore wind development costs. Renew. Energy 83, 61–66 (2015).
Schwanitz, V. J. & Wierling, A. Offshore wind investments – Realism about cost developments is necessary. Energy 106, 170–181 (2016).
H1 2016 Offshore Wind Market Outlook Wind Insight (Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2016).
Dixit, A. K. & Pindyck, R. S. Investment under Uncertainty (Princeton Univ. Press, 1994).
Wiser, R. et al. Forecasting Wind Energy Costs and Cost Drivers: The Views of the World’s Leading Experts (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2016); https://emp.lbl.gov/iea-wind-expert-survey
Anadón, L. D., Nemet, G. & Verdolini, E. The future cost of nuclear power using multiple expert elicitations: effects of RD&D and elicitation design. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 1–10 (2013).
Verdolini, E., Anadon, L. D., Lu, J. & Nemet, G. The effects of expert selection, elicitation design, and R&D assumptions on experts’ estimates of the future cost of photovoltaics. Energy Policy 80, 233–243 (2015).
Nemet, G. F., Anadon, L. D. & Verdolini, E. Quantifying the effects of expert selection and elicitation design on experts’ confidence in their judgements about future energy technologies. Risk Analysis (2016); advance online publication.
Kahneman, D., Slovic, P. & Tversky, A. Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982).
Revolution Now: The Future Arrives for Five Clean Energy Technologies - 2015 Update (US Department of Energy, 2015).
Wind Power in Denmark: Technologies, Policies, and Results (Danish Energy Agency, 1999).
Lemming, J. K., Morthorst, P. E., Clausen, N. E. & Jensen, P. H. Contribution to the Chapter on Wind Power in Energy Technology Perspectives 2008 (Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, 2009).
This study was conducted under the auspices of the IEA Wind Implementing Agreement for Cooperation in the Research, Development, and Deployment of Wind Energy Systems (IEA Wind). It would not have been possible without the funding of the US Department of Energy (DOE) under Contract Nos DE-AC02-05CH11231 (LBNL) and DE-AC36-09GO28308 (NREL), and the support of the NSF-sponsored IGERT: Offshore Wind Energy Engineering, Environmental Science, and Policy (Grant number 1068864). While the individuals providing critical contributions to this work are too numerous to list here, we especially thank our IEA Wind collaborators: V. Berkhout, A. Duffy, B. Cleary, R. Lacal-Arántegui, L. Husabø, J. Lemming, S. Lüers, A. Mast, W. Musial, B. Prinsen, K. Skytte, G. Smart, B. Smith, I. Bakken Sperstad, P. Veers, A. Vitina and D. Weir.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Wiser, R., Jenni, K., Seel, J. et al. Expert elicitation survey on future wind energy costs. Nat Energy 1, 16135 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2016.135
Ocean Engineering (2021)
Wind Engineering (2021)
European Journal of Operational Research (2021)
Low-carbon options for the French power sector: What role for renewables, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage?
Energy Economics (2021)
Journal of Power Sources (2021)