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Offshore wind capacity could surge 3000% by 2045: Study

Christophe Lehenaff | Photononstop | Getty Images

Global offshore wind capacity could leap from 13 gigawatts (GW) in 2015 to 400 GW in 2045, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The report, entitled "Innovation Outlook: Offshore Wind" and released this week, predicts that the next three decades would see offshore wind move from being a new commercial technology to "an industrialized and important component" of our planet's energy mix.

Advances in technology have helped to cut costs and drive market expansion for wind power, IRENA said, with onshore wind reaching cost competitiveness with "conventional" generation technologies.

"Floating foundations for wind farms are a radical innovation that could open significant new markets in deep waters," Francisco Boshell, a renewable energy analyst at IRENA, said in a news release.

"We're already seeing advancements in that area, with several pilot projects underway. The world's first floating wind farm, a 30 MW (megawatts) wind farm in Scotland to be operational by 2017, will be located in water more than 100 meters deep," Boshell added.

Going forward, IRENA's report said it anticipated the commercialization of 10 MW turbines in the 2020s and the potential for 15 MW turbines in the 2030s. Today's offshore turbines typically have a capacity of 6 MW, the body explained.

Challenges remain, however, if IRENA's scenarios for capacity are to be met.

"Our central scenario sees 66 GW in Europe for 2030," Oliver Joy, a spokesperson for industry body WindEurope, told CNBC via email.

"Based on current volumes and the number of national plans out there today, that is beginning to look increasingly optimistic," Joy added.

A huge leap would be needed not just in Europe but in non-EU markets, Joy explained. "China and the U.S. are the two that spring to mind here – possibly India over the longer term," he said.

Joy added that all the signs that offshore wind could be a driving force for some of the planet's "power-hungry economies" were there. "How quickly this happens will be largely dependent on the actions that governments take," he said.

What then, is needed to make a big increase in capacity happen? "Far-reaching ambitious policies from governments but also game changing technology such as floating offshore wind turbines to access the deep waters in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans are a necessity," Joy said.

This was beginning to happen already, he added, with floating demonstration projects in both Europe and Japan, in addition to Scotland's upcoming floating array.

"New markets will also have an important role to play as currently 90 percent of the world's offshore capacity is in European waters," he said.