Europe installed a total of 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of new offshore wind capacity in 2018, an 18% increase that takes the region to a total capacity of 18.5 GW, according to new figures published this week by the region’s wind energy trade body, WindEurope.
WindEurope published its Offshore Wind in Europe report on Thursday revealing a total of 15 new offshore wind farms came online in 2018, with the United Kingdom and Germany together accounting for 85% of all new capacity last year, with 1.3 GW and 969 MW respectively. Capacity increased by 18% in 2018 and the region now has 105 offshore wind farms spread across 11 countries with a total capacity of 18.5 GW.
“Offshore wind continues to grow strongly in Europe,” said WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson. “The total capacity expanded by a further 18% last year. Offshore wind now represents 2% of all the electricity consumed in Europe. And with a big pipeline of projects under construction and development, this number will rise significantly.
The size and scale of offshore wind has continued to increase and the average size of new turbine installed in 2018 grew to 6.8 MW, up 15% on the year before and expected to continue to increase in the next few years as new turbine designs are announced and made commercially available. The UK installed the world’s biggest offshore wind turbines in 2018 — 8.8 MW turbines at the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen, Scotland — and also opened the world’s largest offshore wind farm — the 659 MW Walney Extension off the coast of Cumbria, England.
The Walney Extension won’t remain the largest project for long, however, as a further 6 offshore wind farms are already under construction in Europe including the 1.2 GW Hornsea Project One being built off the coast of Yorkshire, England.
“The technology keeps developing. The turbines keep getting bigger. And the costs keep falling,” Dickson continued. “It’s now no more expensive to build offshore wind than it is to build coal or gas plants. And it’s a good deal cheaper than new nuclear.”
There are also another 12 new offshore wind projects that reached Final Investment Decision in 2018 which represent a further 4.2 GW of capacity and €10.3 billion of investment. 2018’s offshore wind investment figures similarly increased, therefore, growing by 37% on 2017’s levels — but generating an increase in capacity financed up 86%, showing just how quickly costs are falling and how much more an investment dollar can yield.
“More and more governments are recognising the merits of offshore wind,” Giles Dickson added. “Poland is the latest to embrace it with an ambitious plan to build 10 GW by 2040. But a few countries are underperforming on it and risk missing out. Sweden is not building any offshore wind despite great potential. Germany has only a modest target for 2030. And the ‘gamma minus’ performer is France which still has no offshore wind farms nor is it clear when they will have. These countries have a chance to put things right this year with their National Energy and Climate Plans – they should grab it with two hands.”
The future of offshore wind in Europe will also rely heavily on the region’s new renewable energy target of 32% by 2030, which was set in June 2018.
“The 32% target is key – it sets Europe’s ambition in renewables for 2030,” said Andrew Canning, WindEurope’s Press & Communications Manager, speaking to me via email. “Now we need to set out in stone how we’re going to get there. Each European country will need to fill out a National Energy & Climate Plan for 2030, setting out the renewable energy they will deploy up to 2030 to help meet that target. Final drafts are due in at the end of this year. That’s why countries that have been lagging behind have an opportunity to put things right by committing to ambitious offshore wind volumes in their Plans. Offshore makes increasing sense – turbines are getting bigger and delivering more power and costs keep coming down. What’s not to like!”