What is the carbon footprint of offshore wind?


Manufacturing and constructing offshore wind turbines does produce some emissions. But these are very small in comparison to emissions from fossil fuels – and vastly outweighed by the emissions saved by using offshore wind instead of fossil fuels.

Question:

Is more carbon dioxide emitted during the process of manufacturing a wind turbine than saved while it generates electricity?
Fact:

The carbon saved throughout a wind turbine’s lifespan is up to 50 times greater than the emissions from its manufacture, construction, operation and decommissioning.

The real emissions from wind power


The manufacture, installation, operation and eventual decommissioning of offshore wind turbines emits carbon dioxide.

To put it simply, the production of steel and other components, as well as vessel transport and heavy transportation, involve burning fossil fuels. We’re working on carbon-neutral alternatives for the future, but today, these processes are unavoidable when building offshore wind.

What is the carbon footprint of offshore wind?

99% lower emissions than fossil fuels


But most of these emissions only need to happen once for each wind turbine, which will be in service for at least 25 years. In this time, they will be producing electricity without emitting any more carbon dioxide, except for those from the vessels used for service and maintenance. These account for about 10% of total emissions from offshore wind.

When you divide the total emissions associated with a wind turbine by the amount of electricity it will produce in its lifetime, it works out at about 6 g of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity.1

By comparison, power generation based on fossil fuels involves burning more coal, oil or gas for every kWh of electricity, on top of the one-off carbon emissions from construction and decommissioning. For coal, this adds up to approximately 900 g per kWh.

In other words, switching from coal-fired generation to wind power can reduce the carbon emitted from energy production by more than 99%.

Offshore wind generates electricity with less than 1% of the carbon footprint of fossil fuels
Average carbon emissions per kilowatt-hour based on global coal-based power production.2

 

Ørsted on track to be carbon-neutral


Even though our activities as a renewable energy company do involve creating some carbon emissions, we’re on track to be carbon-neutral in our power generation by 2025.

This will make us the first major energy company to reach such a milestone, placing us way ahead of the science-based targets for the energy sector for limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.

Beyond that, we're the first energy company in the world with a validated net-zero target by the Science Based Targets initiative. We aim to be carbon-neutral across its entire footprint by 2040.

Ørsted is on track to be carbon neutral across our entire footprint by 2040

How do we become carbon-neutral?


In energy generation and operations, we will have almost entirely replaced our use of fossil fuels with renewable energy by 2025. For the rest of our footprint, we’re phasing out wholesale buying and selling of natural gas, and working with suppliers to decarbonize our value chain.

Emission-free wind power on the horizon?


When it comes to the emissions that are the most difficult to eliminate, one option is carbon offsetting. This means preventing other carbon emissions to compensate for our own.

But what if we could avoid emitting that last 6 g of carbon dioxide from each kWh of offshore wind power in the first place? There are solutions on the horizon that could make this possible.

We’re already working with strategic suppliers to ensure that all electrical processes in the manufacture of wind turbines use renewable electricity by 2025.

In the medium term, we will also provide guidelines to make sure that sustainable biofuels are used in activities like shipping where possible. We’re also exploring possibilities including using renewable hydrogen, synthetic fuels based on carbon extracted straight from the atmosphere, or even battery-driven vessels that would by charged using renewable electricity.