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The Offshore Wind Industry is Maturing

The European Wind Energy Association’s (EWEA) OFFSHORE 2011 was held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 29 November till 1 December 2011. EWEA has organised the European offshore wind event since 2007 and a lot has changed since then. This time there were 8,200 participants and over 480 exhibitors in 8,000m2 of exhibition space and 23 conference sessions.

{access view=!registered}Only logged in users can view the full text of the article.{/access}{access view=registered}Not only was the event bigger than ever but also the scope of the participating companies was broader. Many more ‘general’ offshore companies were present, such as surveying companies, dredging companies, engineering companies and shipping companies. Another trend was newly designed vessels/concepts for the installation of turbines offshore. Most of these ‘new’ companies have a background in the oil and gas industry and compared to a few years ago it seems that they are now seeing the wind energy business as a good opportunity. With these companies active in the offshore wind sector the sector’s maturation process will probably be faster, especially in Europe.

Currently over 141GW of offshore wind energy capacity is built, under construction, consented or planned in Europe: enough to power 130 million average EU households. These wind farms, representing 35 times more capacity than the just under 4GW already installed, would provide 13.1% of Europe’s total electricity production.

Wind in our Sails
The EWEA has published its latest report, Wind in our Sails, analysing all existing offshore wind power projects in 17 EU member states, mostly in northwestern Europe. New offshore wind farms with a capacity of 5.6GW are currently under construction in the UK, Germany and Belgium. A total of 169,000 jobs in the EU offshore wind energy sector are expected to be created by 2020, going up to 300,000 by 2030, according to the report. European companies are currently global leaders, with over 99% of the world’s installed offshore capacity in European waters. Areas for growth in offshore wind energy include turbine and turbine component manufacturing as well as substructures, vessels, electrical infrastructure including high-voltage subsea cables, and ports. However, the new report warns that if the offshore wind energy sector’s potential is to be fulfilled in Europe it is imperative that sufficient levels of financing are brought in by investors. Also crucial are the financing and building of offshore power grids in the northern and Baltic seas, which would enable huge amounts of electricity to be transported to consumers. For the industry itself, there is a risk of a high-voltage subsea cable shortage in the next few years, which has to be addressed urgently, according to the report, as well as a possible shortage of trained workers. But the success and further maturing of offshore wind also heavily depends on whether EU decision-makers set ambitious renewable energy targets beyond 2020, invest more in research and develop offshore grids.

The next EWEA offshore conference and exhibition will be held in 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany, from 19 to 21 November 2013.

Enjoy reading,

Floris Siteur
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