About Wind Energy / Why Wind Energy

Offshore Wind Power around the World

offshore wind turbine Photo via Nuon

Offshore wind power is not in place in most countries still, but it is installed and creating electricity in some places (especially the EU) and it is expected to grow considerably in the coming years. Why is it expected to grow so much? Because offshore wind is steadier; more consistent; and not blocked by mountains, trees, buildings, etc. Additionally, offshore wind farms can actually be built closer to most population centers than onshore wind (most people live in coastal areas now).

Let’s take a quick look at what’s in place now and what is being planned around the world.


Europe is the clear leader when it comes to offshore wind power (currently). 308 offshore wind turbines were installed in Europe in 2010 and total newly installed capacity ended up being 883 MW, a 51% increase from the year before. New offshore wind power accounted for 9.5% of total new European wind power capacity. Newly installed offshore wind power capacity has grown from 4 MW in 2000 to 883 MW in 2010. You can see a chart of its growth since 2000 from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) below.

click to enlarge

Europe, at the end of 2010, had 1,136 offshore wind turbines installed and connected to the grid on 45 wind farms in 9 countries. In total, these have a power capacity of 2,946 MW. In a normal year, this would  produce 11.5 TWh of electricity.

“The offshore wind power in EU provides enough energy to power 2.9 million average EU households. It is tantamount to what large cities like Brussels and Berlin consumes in total,” Renewable Power News reports. “There are 1,136 offshore wind turbines in the EU region.”

Installed offshore wind power capacity in Europe at the end of 2010. (click to enlarge)

The 9 European countries with offshore wind power capacity in 2010 were:

  1. UK — 1,341 MW
  2. Denmark — 854 MW
  3. Netherlands — 249 MW
  4. Belgium — 195 MW
  5. Sweden — 164 MW
  6. Germany — 92 MW
  7. Ireland — 25 MW
  8. Finland — 26 MW
  9. Norway — 2.3 MW

In 2011, offshore wind power capacity is expected to grow by around 1,000 or 1,500 MW. Currently, there are 13 European wind farms in development that, in total, are projected to have a capacity of nearly 4,000 MW. So, in total, when these are completed, installed offshore wind capacity will hit be close to 7,000 MW.

19,000 MW of offshore wind power capacity have been approved up to now. Renewable Power News reports that “if all these wind energy potentials were being exploited than offshore wind power would generate a total of 66.6 Terawatt hours of electricity. This would be sufficient to power 14 of Europe’s largest capitals.”

For more info on European offshore wind power growth, wind power growth, and changes from other power sources in 2010, visit the EWEA’s “Wind in power” report or the its “The European offshore wind industry key trends and statistics 2010” report.


Location of Shanghai’s East Sea Bridge wind farm.

103.5 MW of offshore wind power are also in operation in China, since it’s first large-scale offshore wind project (totaling 102 MW) was completed June 8, 2010. The second 100-MW portion of this project, Shanghai’s East Sea Bridge wind farm, is supposed to start construction this year. But this 200 MW or so is nothing compared to what China has planned….

Last year, Beijing-based energy consultancy Azure International predicted that China would install 514 MW of offshore wind power over the following 3-4 years. Furthermore, by 2020, it predicts that China will have invested $100 billion in offshore wind and will have installed up to 30,000 MW. “That’s equal to all of the onshore wind farms currently installed in China, already the world’s largest market for wind power,” Technology Review writes.

This year, China’s National Energy Bureau said China intends to start construction on 1,000 MW of offshore wind power projects.


Japan is the only other country in the world with offshore wind power currently being produced. It has 17 turbines producing electricity. In total, these turbines have a capacity of 28.5 MW.

It is hard to know what Japan will be focusing on in the wake of the tremendous natural disasters it has just faced and the ongoing nuclear disaster there, but some have speculated it is going to focus a lot more on renewable energy. None of Japan’s offshore turbines were harmed by the tremendous earthquake and tsunami despite some being quite close to the quake epicenter.

The United States

90m offshore wind resource potential for the United States.
Offshore wind resources in the U.S. map created by NREL. 50m wind map, without Florida. (click to enlarge)

Map via Wind Powering America (state maps available there as well)

The United States is finally getting into the offshore wind power. After years of delay, the Cape Wind offshore wind project was approved by the Obama administration and the project received its ocean lease. Furthermore, the Obama administration also announced, in November 2010, that offshore wind projects would go through a more streamlined review process.

This may not actually be the first offshore wind project in the US, though. A Great Lakes wind farm being built off the coast of Ohio is moving ahead as well, and I imagine developers of that project would love to claim the title.

Reports have found that offshore wind farms along the mid-Atlantic coast could power one-third of the US population. Of course, only with the help of an offshore electricity superhighway, like the one Google invested a ton of money in this year.

The US Department of Energy has dedicated as much as $50.5 million for advancing offshore wind power technology.

Offshore Wind Power Under Construction

Europe will continue to grow its offshore wind power capacity in 2011.

Offshore wind power projected capacity increase in Europe in 2011. (click to enlarge)

Currently, a total of 3,775.3 MW of offshore wind power are under construction at 13 wind farms in:

  • Belgium — 165 MW
  • Denmark — 412 MW
  • Germany — 1,248 MW
  • Italy — 90 MW
  • UK — 1,860 MW

That’s more than the 3,223 MW that are currently in operation (at 60 wind farms).

13,306 MW have been approved (at 36 wind farms) worldwide and 48,227 MW are planned (at 86 wind farms).

Maps of offshore wind power (in operation, under construction, approved, and planned) in Europe give you a visualization of this info.

While France isn’t listed above, I think it’s worth noting that France is aiming to generate 6,000 MW of offshore wind power capacity by 2020.

(Note: the statistics in this subsection are from The Wind Power and are quite a bit different for China than what was presented above.)

Floating Wind Turbines

Floating wind turbines are one promising technology getting a lot of attention now. To keep up to date with news about this technology, check out our floating wind turbines page.