More than one offshore wind turbine was installed per working day in European waters in 2012, bringing the total to 1,662 in 55 offshore wind farms spanning territorial waters of ten European countries, according to year-end data compiled and presented in a European Wind Energy Association report released January 28.
Installation of 293 offshore wind turbines with a total rated capacity of 1,165 megawatts (MW) represents a 33% increase from 2011, when offshore wind turbines with a total rated capacity of 874 MW were installed.
The rapid rate of installations still wasn’t fast enough to meet the European Union’s (EU) offshore wind power capacity target of 5,829 MW, however. Grid interconnection is holding back progress, with new additions in France and Germany lagging significantly behind target. Uncertainty in EU renewable energy policy, market reforms, and regulations are also hindering growth, according to the EWEA.
Installed offshore wind power generation capacity totaled 4,995 MW as of year-end 2012, according to EWEA’s report. The 293 offshore wind turbines installed in EU waters in 2012 represent investments of some €4 billion (~$5.2 billion). That is fuelling much-needed growth in employment and government tax revenues, as well as spurring innovation, enhancing EU economic competitiveness and making substantial reductions in the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of electrical power.
Policy and regulatory uncertainty, as well as the ability of grid operators and offshore wind power project developers to make grid interconnections, is constraining even faster rates of growth, however.
“Offshore wind power is growing solidly”, EWEA policy director Justin Wilkes stated in a press release. “But solid installation figures do not alter the fact that the wind industry is being hit by political and regulatory instability, the economic crisis, the higher cost of capital and austerity.”
“Europe is a world leader in offshore wind energy and could be creating even more jobs if governments gave greater policy certainty to investors, and resolved grid connection problems.”
The UK led all EU countries in offshore wind turbine installations in 2012, accounting for nearly 60% of the annual total. Denmark, Belgium and Germany followed, accounting for 18%, 8%, and 6%, respectively.
Looking forward, EWEA forecasts further growth in EU offshore wind power generation capacity, with an additional 14 offshore wind power projects under construction for 2013 and 2014. Combined, that would add another 3,300 MW of clean, renewable offshore wind power generation capacity to EU grids, bringing total installed capacity to 8,300 MW.
Not one offshore wind farm has been built in the US to date, though the Obama Administration’s efforts to implement a public-private institutional framework for spurring development of offshore wind power is beginning to bear fruit.
The US’ extensive coasts and strong, steady offshore winds hold an abundance of clean, renewable power potential. “Harnessing a realistic fraction of offshore wind’s potential — 52GW — could power 14 million homes with clean electrons while creating over 300,000 new jobs and $200 billion in new economic activity in some of our biggest cities,” according to a September 14, 2012 Clean Technica blog post based on the National Wildlife Foundation’s (NWF) “The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy,” report.
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