Clean Power

Published on January 29th, 2013 | by Andrew


EU Installed More Than One Offshore Wind Turbine Per Working Day In 2012

January 29th, 2013 by  

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.

Graph credit: 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.

Graph credit: EWEA

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.

Graph credit: EWEA

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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I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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  • Ole Laursen

    It may interest people to know that in Denmark where we had a headstart (and probably would be much farther ahead if it weren’t for the previous right-wing government that put the renewable agenda on ice for half a decade), we consider the current level of subsidies paid for off-shore wind, such as the new parks in the UK, too high.

    Due to haste, we ended up with one fairly expensive park ourselves to go into operation this year (cheaper than the UK ones but still at around 0.14 €/KWh with only one bidder I believe). A study was commissioned to figure out how to get better bids for the next rollouts. When you look at the capital and running expenses, e.g. the costs of the relatively small Samsø Havvindmøllepark where the income statements for the past half a decade are publicly available, it seems the companies bidding reap huge profits from tariffs of the past few years – yes, they do also take on risk but we should certainly see the prices fall.

    • Thanks for the extra info. And good news on that last line. 😀

      • Dave2020

        Ole is quite right and UK offshore deployment is riding for a fall. Unlike Denmark, we don’t have access to much storage, so our turbines will be especially wasteful in operation. Deploy in haste and repent at your leisure!

        An article on the German Energiewende also made a pertinent observation:-

        “The current subsidies don’t encourage innovation as much as they make existing technologies profitable.”

        One wasteful year in China highlights the growing nightmare of over-capacity:-

        “Government-led market-oriented reform is needed to address the problem of curtailment. Some 20 billion kWh of wind-generated electricity was lost to curtailment in 2012, according to CWEA data.”

        But market reform is never going to stop ‘wrong-time’ production, because it is an inherent feature of turbine design and the MORE you install, the WORSE it gets. This is a technology problem that needs a technology solution – energy storage before-generator.

        Even China has more wind potential offshore than onshore and that is where you have the space (and technology opportunity) to build your storage at a viable capital cost.

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