Note that this is part of a comprehensive wind power resource page we are in the process of creating.
Offshore wind power is not in place in most countries still, but it is in some places (especially the EU) and it is expected to grow considerably in the coming years. Why is it expected to grow so much? Because offshore wind is steadier, more consistent; not blocked by mountains, trees, buildings, etc.; and offshore wind farms can actually be built closer to most population centers than onshore wind (most people live in coastal areas now).
Let’s take a quick look at what’s in place now and what is being planned around the world.
Europe is the clear leader when it comes to offshore wind power (currently). 308 offshore wind turbines were installed in Europe in 2010 and total newly installed capacity ended up being 883 MW, a 51% increase from the year before. New offshore wind power accounted for 9.5% of total, new European wind power capacity. Newly installed offshore wind power capacity has grown from 4 MW in 2000 to 883 MW in 2010. You can see a chart of its growth since 2000 from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) below.
Europe, at the end of 2010, had 1,136 offshore wind turbines installed and connected to the grid on 45 wind farms in 9 countries. In total, these have a power capacity of 2,946 MW. In a normal year, this would produce 11.5 TWh of electricity.
“The offshore wind power in EU provides enough energy to power 2.9 million average EU households. It is tantamount to what large cities like Brussels and Berlin consumes in total,” Renewable Power News reports. “There are 1,136 offshore wind turbines in the EU region.”
The 9 European countries with offshore wind power capacity in 2010 were:
- UK — 1,341 MW
- Denmark — 854 MW
- Netherlands — 249 MW
- Belgium — 195 MW
- Sweden — 164 MW
- Germany — 92 MW
- Ireland — 25 MW
- Finland — 26 MW
- Norway — 2.3 MW
In 2011, offshore wind power capacity is expected to grow by around 1,000 or 1,500 MW. Currently, there are 13 European wind farms in development that, in total, are projected to have a capacity of nearly 4,000 MW. So, in total, when these are completed, installed offshore wind capacity will hit be close to 7,000 MW.
19,000 MW of offshore wind power capacity have been approved up to now. Renewable Power News reports that “if all these wind energy potentials were being exploited than offshore wind power would generate a total of 66.6 Terawatt hours of electricity. This would be sufficient to power 14 of Europe’s largest capitals.”
For more info on European offshore wind power growth, wind power growth, and changes from other power sources in 2010, visit the EWEA’s “Wind in power” report or the its “The European offshore wind industry key trends and statistics 2010” report.
103.5 MW of offshore wind power are also in operation in China, after it’s first large-scale offshore wind project (totaling 102 MW) was completed June 8, 2010. The second 100-MW portion of this project, Shanghai’s East Sea Bridge wind farm, is supposed to start construction this year. But this 200 MW or so is nothing compared to what China has planned….
Last year, Beijing-based energy consultancy Azure International predicted that China would install 514 MW of offshore wind power over the following 3-4 years. Furthermore, by 2020, it predicts that China will have invested $100 billion in offshore wind and will have installed up to 30,000 MW. “That’s equal to all of the onshore wind farms currently installed in China, already the world’s largest market for wind power,” Technology Review writes.
This year, China’s National Energy Bureau said China intends to start construction on 1,000 MW of offshore wind power projects.
Japan is the only other country in the world with offshore wind power currently being produced. It has 17 turbines producing electricity. In total, they have a capacity of 28.5 MW.
It is hard to know what Japan will be focusing on in the wake of the tremendous natural disasters it has just faced and the ongoing nuclear disaster there, but some have speculated it is going to focus a lot more on renewable energy. It was none of Japan’s offshore turbines were harmed by the tremendous earthquake and tsunami despite some being quite close to the quake epicenter.
The United States
The United States is finally getting into the offshore wind power. After years of delay, the Cape Wind offshore wind project was approved by the Obama administration and the project received its ocean lease. Furthermore, the Obama administration also announced, in November, that offshore wind projects would go through a more streamlined review process.
This may not actually be the first offshore wind project in the U.S., though. A Great Lakes wind farm being built off the coast of Ohio is moving ahead as well and I imagine developers of that project would love to claim the title.
Reports have found that offshore wind farms along the mid-Atlantic coast could power one-third of the U.S. population. Of course, only with the help of an offshore electricity superhighway, like the one Google invested a ton of money in this year.
The U.S. Department of Energy has dedicated as much as $50.5 million for advancing offshore wind power technology and Obama has announced that he would like to see .
Offshore Wind Power Under Construction
Europe will continue to grow it’s offshore wind power capacity in 2011.
Currently, a total of 3775.3 MW of offshore wind power are under construction at 13 wind farms in:
- Belgium — 165 MW
- Denmark — 412 MW
- Germany — 1248 MW
- Italy — 90 MW
- UK — 1860 MW
That’s more than the 3223 MW that are currently in operation (at 60 wind farms).
13306 MW have been approved (at 36 wind farms) worldwide and 48227 MW are planned (at 86 wind farms).
Maps of offshore wind power (in operation, under construction, approved, and planned) in Europe give you a visualization of this info.
While France isn’t listed above, I think it’s worth noting that France is aiming to generate 6,000 MW of offshore wind power capacity by 2020.
(Note: the statistics in this subsection are from The Wind Power and are quite a bit different for China than what was presented above.)
Floating Wind Turbines
Floating wind turbines are one promising technology getting a lot of attention now. Because they are in a nascent stage, we’re just looking to discuss these over in the Technology section for now. But the huge promise of this technology is that it allows turbines to be placed in deeper waters where wind is stronger and more consistent.
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on some of your favorite social networks, go to zacharyshahan.com or click on some of the links below.