Making green energy affordable

       How the offshore wind energy industry matured
        – and what we can learn from it

The first offshore wind farms

When the 11 turbines of the world’s first offshore wind farm, Vindeby in Denmark, were commissioned by Ørsted in 1991, not many believed that it was practical – or even possible – to operate wind turbines at sea.

In Denmark, a wind energy industry with an established home market emerged following the oil crises of the seventies. Initially seen mostly as a demonstration project to underpin the wind energy industry and its growing export, Vindeby was installed off the coast of Denmark. Totalling 5MW, it covered the annual consumption of 2,200 Danish households.

After the commissioning of Vindeby in 1991, the growth in new offshore wind farms was slow. Over the next ten years, only a few more offshore wind farms – in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK – were constructed, the largest being 40MW. Since the farms were considered pilot projects, the political focus was on technical feasibility rather than on comparing costs to other sources of renewable energy.


The first offshore wind farms were relatively simple; onshore turbines based on concrete foundations in shallow water. They were typically ordered by governments and constructed by utilities, sometimes with companies entering into consortia.

While not at industrial scale by any standards, the first offshore wind farms provided valuable learnings. Fundamentally, the projects proved the feasibility of the concept of offshore wind power, despite being harder to install and access. Some early wind farms had positive surprises by producing more energy than expected. This, along with growing political concern over climate change, resulted in an appetite for more offshore wind energy.

Increased national ambitions
In 1998, the Danish Government announced plans for five new offshore wind farms of 150MW each. The same year, in the UK, the Government, The Crown Estate and the British Wind Energy Association held talks to set guidelines for offshore wind energy development in UK waters. This led to the first offshore wind leasing round by The Crown Estate in the UK, which was completed in 2001.

In sum



Key political drivers

Political wish to develop the national wind energy industry and fiscal       
concerns over energy imports leads to the first offshore wind farms

Key industry developments

No specialised production chain.

Few, scattered and relatively small demonstration projects.

Turbines growing from 0.5 up to 2.3MW



Denmark, United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands                                  

Market volume 


Annual industry investment

~ EUR 0.1 bn

Typical project size


Global deployment rate

~ 1 turbine / 28 days

Cost (LCOE)

No reliable data available 


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2002-2011 Scaling up

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