Floating wind farms could provide EU with 40GW by 2020

European Wind Energy Association report says 145 million households could benefit from offshore electricity by 2030

Floating wind farms could be the answer to Europe’s energy concerns. (Source: Untrakdover)

By Nilima Choudhury 

Floating wind farms lining the horizon far out to sea should be a regular sight if European renewable energy targets are to be met, says a new report.

The report from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) claims deep water floating wind turbines in Europe’s Atlantic and Mediterranean seas and the deepest parts of the North Sea could power Europe four times over.

By 2030, the EWEA envisages an installed capacity of 150GW, or enough electricity for 145 million households.

“To allow this sector to realise 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”, said Jacopo Moccia, head of policy analysis at EWEA.


Although offshore wind is one of the fastest growing maritime sectors, it is still a young technology facing considerable challenges.

“Offshore wind power installations were significantly higher than in the first six months of last year,” said Justin Wilkes, director of policy at the EWEA.

“But financing of new projects has slowed down with only one project reaching financial close [in the UK] so far this year. It highlights the significant challenges faced by the offshore wind sector.”

At the end of 2012, 5GW had been installed in Europe. The EWEA predicts that by 2020 this could be eight times higher, at 40GW, meeting 4% of European electricity demand.

However, for this to happen, the EWEA calls for a supportive legislative framework and new offshore designs to be developed for deep water in order to tap the large wind potential of the Atlantic, Mediterranean and deep North Sea waters.

“Europe is a world leader [in wind energy] with huge export opportunities. The installation rate shows what the European offshore wind industry is now capable of. But to attract investment to the sector governments need to provide a stable regulatory framework and the EU should set a binding renewable target for 2030”, said Wilkes.

Among the European Union member states, the UK is applauded in the report for strong government support in deep offshore development. The UK’s Energy Technology Institute has earmarked £25 million (US$38 million) is earmarked for a floating offshore wind demonstration project.

Earlier this month, the UK announced plans for the world’s largest offshore wind farm off the Lincolnshire and Norfolk coast. The 288 turbine 1,200MW project costing around £3.6 billion will exceed the country’s 175 turbine array off the Kent coast.

If the requirements are met, the first full-scale deep offshore wind farms could be producing electricty by 2017, up from the two floating turbines currently supplying electricity from European waters.

The competition

Currently all deep offshore grid connected full scale turbines are located in European waters, but the US and Japan are catching up.

“It is essential that these European companies benefit from national and European R&D support to maintain their leadership and take advantage of the significant potential of the domestic market and the export opportunities that derive from being a first mover,” advised the report.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), part of the Department of the Interior (DoI) director Tommy Beaudreau announced late last week that BOEM will auction nearly 112,800 acres of Virginia for offshore wind energy development.

BOEM claims this will have the potential to support more than 2,000MW of wind generation – enough electricity to power approximately 700,000 homes.

Jessica Kershaw, press secretary for the DoI told RTCC that the Pacific Coast and New York have also been quite successful with wind energy.

“We are seeing increased interest in deep water wind turbine systems offshore Oregon and Hawaii. In Oregon, specifically, we are reviewing a commercial wind lease request from Principle Power, a company that has received funding from the Department of Energy to demonstrate the capabilities of floating wind turbines on the OCS, deploying new technology successfully tested offshore Portugal.

“BOEM is also reviewing a research lease request to test marine hydrokinetic technologies off the coast of Oregon [as well as] working with the State to map out the next steps moving forward,” said Kershaw.


Read more on: Energy | US | |