Clean Power

Published on July 31st, 2013 | by James Ayre


Floating Offshore Wind Turbines Could Meet EU Electricity Demands 4x Over, According To New Report

July 31st, 2013 by  

The European Union’s total electricity usage could be met — actually, it could be exceeded more than four times over — by floating offshore wind farms in the deep waters of the North Sea, according to a new report from the European Wind Energy Association. The report also urges the EU to set new renewable energy targets for the bloc, for the year 2030.

The report makes the argument that floating wind turbines — and/or other wind turbines specifically adapted to the deep waters of the North Sea — should be an important part of EU energy infrastructure in the future. According to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), regardless of development costs, floating turbines — as a result of their greatly decreased use of steel — are cost-competitive with conventional turbines that are installed in waters deeper than 50 meters. The report makes the assertion that if the right policies are put into place now — to spur the development and implementation of next-generation floating turbines — total EU offshore wind capacity could reach 150 GW by the year 2030.

floating wind turbine

“The world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine, Hywind, being assembled in the Åmøy Fjord near Stavanger, Norway in 2009, before deployment in the North Sea.”
Image Credit: Hywind Floating Wind Turbine via Flickr CC

Business Green has more info on the new report and the wind energy situation in Europe today:

“The EU currently operates at least 5 GW of offshore wind capacity, at least 3.3 GW of which is located in UK waters. However, the EWEA believes European capacity could reach 150 GW by 2030 if the right policies are put in place to support the industry and accelerate the development of floating turbines.

“The European Commission is due to present its proposals for the 2030 energy and climate framework later this year, which could include targets covering carbon emissions, renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

There’s some significant opposition to the adoption of new renewable energy targets, though. Some of those opposing such targets, such as the UK, argue that it’d be a far better choice to simply set a strong emissions target and then allow countries to work out the details on their own, choosing the solutions that are best suited to their individual situations.

The counterargument — according to Jacopo Moccia, the head of policy analysis at EWEA — is that a 2030 renewable energy target is necessary in order to drive faster development of the offshore wind industry. He stated: “To allow this sector to realize its potential and deliver major benefits for Europe, a clear and stable legislative framework for after 2020 — based on a binding 2030 renewable energy target — is vital. This must be backed by an industrial strategy for offshore wind including support for R&D.”

In related news, noted wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa recently made the announcement that it had finished installing its first offshore wind turbine in Spanish waters. The new 5 MW turbine was installed in Arinaga Quay in Gran Canaria. It possess a rotor diameter of 128 meters, with the potential to provide electricity for somewhere around 7,500 households.

As Josh wrote yesterday, “Gamesa is proud of their new prototype, describing the turbine as having a ‘modular and redundant design, which ensures reliability and maximizes energy output, optimizing the cost of energy’.”

For more information and recent news about more innovative but still nascent floating wind turbines featured in the EWEA article, see:  Floating Wind Turbines In Scotland Get £15 Million.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • JamesWimberley

    Japan is also very interested in floating wind turbines because on the Pacific side of the archipelago there is hardly any continental shelf for fixed ones.

  • Bob_Wallace

    What’s the potential for European offshore wind? Is it possibly 4x 3,180,000 GWh per year? If so, the title is correct.

    150 GW by 2030 would be a measure of only the nameplate capacity in place by that date. Not what would possible to build. That’s assuming the world continues past 2030, of course.

    Nameplate vs. output capacity. It looks like current technology is returning capacity number higher than 40%.

    It seems to me that an earlier study found that the UK had massive amounts of offshore wind potential. I’ll try to find it again.

  • Matt

    First reference I found (eurostat) was EU-27 was 3.18 million gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2010 (3,180,000 GWh per year)

    150GW*365.25(days/year)*24(hour/day) = 1,314,900 GWh per year at 100% (I think we can all agree that is a bit high even for off shore wind).
    Now even assuming that EU does a lot of efficiency improvements by 2030, the 150GW will not be 4x the demand.

    Or maybe it is just badly written, they expect 150GW with current policies, but a boat load if the policies change. Or maybe they are just talking about what isn’t covered by PV and geothermal.

  • Andy

    Where did the article’s headline come from? It’s misleading at best and untrue at worst. In 2010 the EU installed capacity was 870GW, according to the first link I clicked on Googling ‘eu electricity demand 2011 GW’ which seems like a reputable source. So barely 1/6 of the EU demands in 2010 could be met even installing all 150GW of capacity, and at what price? It’s still a huge amount of electricity, so there’s no need to mislead the reader.

    • Steeple

      $150MWhr? Can’t be cheap.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Where did you get $150MWhr?

        • Steeple

          Ballpark based on my interaction with some offshore wind developers. What do you think it will be on a full cost basis with a reasonable return?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s what I find for onshore wind from the European Wind Energy Association. I stuck it in for comparison. I believe US wind is cheaper due to our better wind resources.

            “… the cost ranges from approximately 6-8 c€/kWh at sites with low average wind speeds to approximately 4-5 c€/kWh at good coastal positions.”


            I found this for European offshore…

            “This equals Europe’s current offshore wind LCoE of €13 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) dropping to €11ct/kWh by 2016 and €9ct/kWh by 2020 – making offshore wind competitive with all other forms of non-hydro renewable electricity.”


            And this for UK offshore…

            “‘The current cost of offshore wind is around £150–£169
            per MWh [15.0–16.9p per kWh]. This follows unforeseen price increases due mainly to the falling strength of the pound against the euro and commodity prices. … Currency fluctuations were the primary reason for the 26–33% increase in the capital costs of offshore wind during 2008–10. This is mainly due to 80% of the components of offshore wind turbines installed in the UK between 2005 and 2010 being imported into the country. … With the currency impact removed, underlying capital costs would have increased by only 4–7% since 2008’.

            ‘We should not be particularly surprised that we have arrived at a point in the history of a particular emerging technology when costs have increased … many technologies go through such a period, and still go on to offer cost-effective performance in the long run.’

            ‘Reducing the cost of offshore wind to £100 per MWh [10p per kWh] by the early 2020s has become a key objective for the DECC, with a task force now in place to achieve this goal. Costs of offshore wind may fall further beyond the early 2020s with future levelised cost projections of £70-80
            per MWh [7p–8p per kWh] by 2020–2030 forecast …’ .”


            7p is 11 cents US.

            I would expect our first wind farms to be expensive. We’ve got a lot of infrastructure to build (plants, docks, ships) and people to train. There will be a lot of inefficiency at first from the supply chain through throwing the switch.

          • Steeple

            Offshore environments are very harsh, particularly on moving equipment. Maintenance costs will be much higher than on land is these are to have long lives.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yep, our ocean going vessel have to be scrapped after only a few years use.

            Oh, wait, they don’t.

            Yes, it is a harsher climate. That will mean building a bit tighter turbine and replacing front bearings and seals more often. That sort of stuff.

            But the wind resources are significantly richer so that makes it worth the extra effort and cost.

            It’s kind of like with your beloved oil. The good stuff is harder to get to. It’s harder on drill rigs to go deeper and harder on pumps to suck it out.

          • Ronald Brakels

            The reason they are building floating turbines is that it should be cheaper than current offshore wind built in water depths of over 50 meters. It is a cost saving measure that also opens up deeper water to wind turbines.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A neat thing about floaters is if one needs significant repair/refurbishing they can tow a replacement out and hook it up. Then tow the other turbine back to a dry dock and give it the attention it needs from dry land.

            Almost no down time.

            It’s likely to be a major cost saver. Work can continue even in nasty weather when it would be hard to access a tower at sea.

          • Ronald Brakels

            And it might sound a little bizarre, but one big fan of floating turbines will be the oil industry. Offshore oil rigs can use a lot of expensive liquid fuel and using a floating wind turbines will be a big money saver.

          • Bob_Wallace

            So you’re suggesting that oil rigs will go wind to save diesel?

            I can see that. After all, coal mines are installing solar.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Yep. And maybe I should write about the oil industry’s use of solar. But not today.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Chevron, I think, is using solar to make steam to cook the sludge out of its holes.

    • Ronald Brakels

      The North Atlantic ocean is like 50,000,000 square kilometers so floating wind turbines could supply maybe 2,000 times Europe’s electricity demand. The four times demand figure comes from throwing a bit of realism in there.

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