141 GW of European Offshore Wind Under Way

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A new EWEA report tallying all existing offshore wind power projects in the 17 European Union states, based on a survey of built, consented and planned capacity and wind farm projects already undergoing construction, finds that Europe has a pipeline of a staggering 141,000 megawatts of offshore wind due on the grid over the next twenty years. With 4 GW installed by the end of 2011, Europe has 99% of offshore wind globally already.

Speaking at the EWEA Offshore 2011 conference and exhibition in Amsterdam, EWEA president Arthouros Zervos said: “There is a huge developer interest in offshore wind energy across Europe: Developers, governments and investors realise that offshore wind energy offers the growth and jobs that Europe desperately needs.”

Currently, 130 million houses are powered by the 4,000 megawatts of offshore wind already on the grid in Europe. (Because European houses are better insulated and more urban, they use less electricity than houses in the US). But even more encouragingly for the prospects of developing a low carbon future, the associated interests are enormous.

The supply chain for the offshore wind industry is evolving rapidly. The market promise underpinned by ambitious national programmes, particularly in the UK and Germany, has sparked an enormous volume of industrial interest as well as a significant amount of new investment in plant and facilities. This burst of activity should be set against the backdrop of a reces- sionary climate in other industries.

Growth areas within the wind industry include turbine manufacturing and turbine components, while development of substructures, vessels, plus electrical infrastructure, and high voltage subsea cabling all offer scope for expansion. High voltage cabling is a particular market where a capacity constraint has been identified and which needs to be issued urgently, the association says, while suitably trained personnel are also in demand.

As Durban climate talks at Durban got underway, Zervos had a message: “The offshore wind energy sector can replicate the success of the onshore wind technology development, which is now a mainstream source of power competitive with new coal and gas plants, and a major European industry,” he said, but he continued: “To ensure this happens, EU decision-makers need to set ambitious renewable energy targets beyond 2020, invest more in research and develop offshore grids.”

With so many projects in the pipeline, and so many interests now vested in its continuation – manufacturers, developers and suppliers – it seems very unlikely that Europe will abandon its Kyoto-driven ambitious carbon goals at this week’s climate talks at Durban. This ship is too big to turn around.

Developing a secure and stable long-term supply of electricity of off-shore wind power would put Europe so far out ahead of the rest of the world in energy security, why would they want to lose that advantage?

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