Content displaying: CAPEX

Offshore Wind

Capital Expenditures (CAPEX)

Definitions: Capital expenditures (CAPEX) are expenditures required to achieve commercial operation in a given year. In the ATB, CAPEX reflects typical plants and does not include differences in regional costs associated with labor, materials, taxes, or system requirements. The range of CAPEX demonstrates variation with spatial site parameters in the contiguous United States.

Based on Moné at al. (2015) and Beiter et al. (2016), the CAPEX of the 2020 ATB for the wind plant envelope is defined to include items noted in the Summary of Technology Innovation by Scenario table above.

CAPEX within the ATB represents the capacity-weighted average values of all potential wind plant areas within a wind speed class and varies with water depth, metocean conditions and distance from shore.

Base Year: Base Year estimates for CAPEX are derived using an updated version of NREL's Offshore Regional Cost Analyzer (ORCA) (Beiter et al. 2016). The following chart shows historical CAPEX for offshore wind.

To estimate CAPEX, various spatial parameters are considered, including water depth, distance from shore, distance to ports, and wave height. CAPEX estimates are calibrated to correspond to the latest cost and technology trends observed in the U.S. and European offshore wind markets, including:

  • Turbine CAPEX: CAPEX of $1,300/kW are assumed for the Base Year to account for decreases in turbine CAPEX that are observed in global offshore wind markets.
  • Turbine Rating: Turbine technology trends of 6 MW (Base Year), 8 MW (2022 COD), 12 MW (2027 COD), and 15 MW (2030 COD) are assumed to correspond to recent technology trends in the Moderate Scenario.
  • Cost Reduction Trajectory: Recent literature is surveyed to identify the most up-to-date cost reduction trends expected for U.S. and European offshore wind projects; cost reduction trajectories are estimated from bottom-up modeling of the turbine and plant upsizing impact, increased supply chain efficiencies and learning, and size-agnostic technology innovation.

Future Years: CAPEX improvements are estimated to be driven by an increase in turbine rating, enhanced supply chain efficiencies and size-agnostic technology innovations. The following chart shows the scenarios in comparison to literature projections.

Use the following table to view the components of CAPEX.


The following references are specific to this page; for all references in this ATB, see References.

Beiter, Philipp, Musial, Walter, Smith, Aaron, Kilcher, Levi, Damiani, Rick, Maness, Michael, Sirnivas, Senu, Stehly, Tyler, Gevorgian, Vahan, Mooney, Meghan, & Scott, George. (2016). A Spatial-Economic Cost-Reduction Pathway Analysis for U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Development from 2015-2030. (No. NREL/TP-6A20-66579). National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Moné, C., Smith, A., Maples, B., & Hand, M. (2015). 2013 Cost of Wind Energy Review. (No. NREL/TP-5000-63267). National Renewable Energy Laboratory.