The year 2015 was a strong one for renewables, but maybe more so for none other than the world’s offshore wind industry.
The global offshore wind industry finished 2014 at 8,759 MW of installed capacity, having installed 1,713 MW throughout 2014 (according to the Global Wind Energy Council’s Global Wind Report: Annual Market Update, 2014). The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) followed that up with news that European installations for the first half of 2015 had already hit 2,342.9 MW — triple the figures from the first half of 2014. These figures were confirmed by the European Wind Energy Association in July.
“It has taken the offshore wind industry just six months to set the best year the sector has ever seen in terms of installed capacity,” said Kristian Ruby, Chief Policy Officer, EWEA. “While this clearly shows a commitment to offshore wind development in Europe, a number of completed projects, explosive growth in Germany and the use of higher capacity wind turbines are major contributors to these numbers.”
The European Market
The European market is the driving factor behind the world’s offshore wind industry, making up for 91% of all offshore wind capacity at the end of 2014. So when, by the end of the first half of 2015, the European offshore wind energy industry reached 10,393.6 MW, it bodes well for the global industry as a whole.
Especially when you take into consideration the current offshore wind energy pipeline, and accompanying offshore wind targets.
Of course, Europe didn’t stop there, and according to figures provided by MAKE Consulting in early December, it was reported that Europe had installed nearly 3.1 GW worth of offshore wind for 2015, making up the lion’s share of the expected 3.6 GW of new capacity set to be installed globally during 2015. In fact, a separate study published by GlobalData in September predicts that the UK will increase its installed offshore wind capacity to 23.2 GW by 2025.
“The UK government is aiming to achieve 18 GW of offshore wind capacity installations by 2020, based on the roadmap laid out by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC),” explained Harshavardhan Reddy Nagatham, GlobalData’s Analyst covering Renewable Energy.
The end of October, with the announcement of Danish wind energy giant DONG Energy consenting to build the 660 MW Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm, saw the UK’s wind and marine energy trade body, RenewableUK, reveal that the UK had finally secured over 10 GW of offshore wind — either operating, under construction, or planned.
“The UK is the number one destination for offshore wind investors,” said Dr Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s Director of Policy for Economics and Regulation. “This week’s two major announcements of offshore wind projects achieving financial close, securing billions of pounds in investment, show that it remains an attractive place to do offshore business.”
DONG Energy is far and away the leading offshore wind developer in the world, having completed the divestment of all its onshore projects in December of 2014, in favor of focusing entirely on offshore wind energy.
“Today, offshore wind is the fastest growing renewable energy technology in Europe, and it’s within offshore wind that DONG Energy has its key competences,” said Samuel Leupold, Executive Vice President for DONG Energy Wind Power. “Until now, we’ve installed more than 2,500MW offshore wind power capacity and we’re determined to install another 4,000MW by 2020.
“We’re fully committed to build new offshore wind farms to support the transition of our energy supply in a greener direction. Therefore, I’m very pleased with the fact that we’ve now divested our last onshore wind activities so that we can focus entirely on this considerable task.”
The company followed these guidelines to the letter this year. In February, DONG Energy acquired the 1.2 GW Hornsea Project One offshore wind farm from UK consortium SMart Wind, following it up in August by acquiring the entire Hornsea Offshore Wind Zone, including the project rights to Hornsea Project Two and Three. In all, the 3 GW worth of wind farms cover an area of over 4,000 square kilometers off the Yorkshire coast.
In July, DONG Energy inaugurated the Westermost Rough Offshore Wind Park, the 210 MW project located off the east coast of Britain in the North Sea. DONG Energy inaugurated its first ever German offshore wind farm in October, with the completion of the 312 MW Borkum Riffgrund 1 wind farm.
The United States
Maybe one of the most exciting areas to watch for offshore wind news this year has been the United States, despite currently having absolutely no installed offshore wind capacity.
2015 started off with one of the most staggering reports ever to grace the internets, when the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation revealed that the US has a potential 4,223 GW of offshore wind energy potential — including 50 GW from the Ohio waters of Lake Erie alone. A report published later in the year by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory revealed that the US could have a total of 3.3 GW of installed offshore wind energy capacity by the end of the decade. Furthermore, the report identified 21 offshore wind projects currently in the US project pipeline, with a total capacity of as much as 15,650 MW.
However, the US still lags behind many other developed nations.
“As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the US Energy Policy Act of 2005, it is disheartening to see that while land-based wind and solar have reached new heights, US offshore wind has remained a missed opportunity,” said Jeremy Firestone, lead author of a paper published in September, and a professor in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment’s School of Marine Science and Policy.
In March, offshore wind energy developer Deepwater Wind announced that it had fully financed the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm, set to be developed off the coast in Rhode Island.
“We’re ecstatic to reach financial close and thrilled to be partners with Societe Generale and KeyBank for this groundbreaking clean energy project,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski. “We’re full speed ahead and moving ever closer to ‘steel in the water.’”
This news was followed up in July when Deepwater Wind announced that it had laid the first foundation for the wind farm, which is expected to see completion by fall-2016.
In years to come, we’ll be speaking a lot more about China’s offshore wind industry than we do today. China only posted a total capacity installation of 229.3 MW during 2014. However, GlobalData is currently predicting that that figure will increase over the next few years, and by 2020 the analytics company is predicting China will have an installed capacity of 12.4 GW of offshore wind.
Floating Offshore Wind
Although not the world’s largest industry, the market for floating offshore wind energy has definitely increased in popularity and attention throughout 2015, with several stories grabbing headlines.
In April, the European Commission granted approval for the construction of a 25 MW floating wind farm demonstration project to be developed off the coast of Portugal. The “WindFloat project” will test in “real operating conditions” and provide invaluable data as to the legitimacy of further developing offshore wind power in the region.
Fast-forward to November, and the Scottish Government approved the construction of what will be, upon completion, the world’s largest floating wind farm. The Hywind pilot mark project is set to be developed by oil and gas giant Statoil, and will consist of five 6 MW turbines to be installed and completed sometime in late 2017.
“Statoil is proud to develop the world’s first floating wind farm,” said Irene Rummelhoff, Statoil’s executive vice president for New Energy Solutions. “Our objective with the Hywind pilot park is to demonstrate the feasibility of future commercial, utility-scale floating wind farms. This will further increase the global market potential for offshore wind energy, contributing to realising our ambition of profitable growth in renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions.”
Not long after, researchers from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) developed a new floating platform (shown right) that could reduce floating offshore wind costs by 12 euro cents per kilowatt hour, continuing the trend of technological development to make floating offshore wind a reality.
And to finish the year off, in early December, Siemens was contracted to supply 30 MW of wind turbines that will be installed at the 30 MW Hywind floating offshore wind park. The turbines will be built upon floating foundations in water depths between 90 and 120 meters.
Offshore wind has the potential to be one of the world’s leading electricity generators, and continued government support will likely see the industry blossom further over the remainder of the decade, and into the early 2020s.