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What Will the Future Bring for the Offshore Industry?

Offshore 2013, which was organised by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), took place between 19 and 21 November 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany. This event provided the latest information, predicted trends, showcased new innovations and connected key industry and political people.
 
2030 Green Targets
During EWEA Offshore participants often expressed the need for consistent political support for the industry. Recently, European Parliament committees voted ‘yes’ to renewables target. They have reaffirmed their support for an ambitious climate and energy policy and their commitment to renewable energy by supporting three binding 2030 targets for renewables, greenhouse gas reductions and energy efficiency. Members of the energy and industry committee and the environment committee voted 66 to 50 in favour of the three targets. The vote goes to plenary in February. According to Stephane Bourgeois, Head of Regulatory Affairs at EWEA, the Commission must propose an ambitious and binding renewable energy target in its communication. On 22 January the European Commission proposes a greenhouse gas target of 40% and a renewables target of 27% by 2030 in its Communication published 22 January 2014. This is despite its own figures which show that setting a 30% renewables target would create over 560,000 more jobs in Europe and boost economic growth. The Commission is also ignoring the European Parliament, which voted in favour of a binding 30% renewables target for 2030 in committee earlier this month. The 2030 debate will be the focus of the opening plenary session and press conference of the EWEA 2014 Annual Event, 10-13 March, Barcelona, ten days before Heads of State meet to discuss the 2030 package.
 
Another point often put forward during the event was that removing fossil-fuel and nuclear subsidies will help establish a fairer energy market and boost renewables. A study from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) shows how fossil-fuel producers are receiving more than US$ 500 billion a year in governmental subsidies. The European Commission has announced the launch of a study into energy subsidies in the EU and it is expected that it will have a complete overview of energy prices and subsidies by late spring 2014. That is a good first step, but the fossil-fuel industry has a strong lobby so I do not think the EC will put an end to these subsidies anytime soon. The task for the industry is to bring down the cost of energy, which means bigger turbines with higher ratings and more standardised installation processes.
 
Turbine Developments
Currently, the average size of installed offshore turbines is 3.8MW and most manufacturers are now developing bigger turbines. For instance, REpower unveiled its new 6.2MW turbines during the show, Vestas is working on its V164-8MW turbine and Siemens introduced its new SWT4.0-130 turbine and has installed two 6MW turbines at a demonstration project in the UK. Traditionally, turbines have three blades because of noise levels and visual impact. Aerodyn feels that these arguments fall away for offshore turbines, so they have developed a two-bladed 8MW turbine. It has a 168-metre rotor diameter and is a downwind design with pitch-controlled blades and features medium-speed drive-train. The partner for this turbine is Ming Yang and they are planning to install prototypes in the Taiwan Strait and the South Chinese Sea. More manufacturers want to be involved in the offshore market but currently the market is dominated by just a few players. The future will tell if newcomers have a chance. We will keep you updated.
 
Enjoy reading,
 
Floris Siteur
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