The stature of European offshore wind energy in the world

Oceans cover almost three-quarters of the earth´s surface. Winds from the sea and oceans are more regular and stronger. We can hope a big potential of offshore wind energy for the future but which place has the European Union in this sector? The following will show the offshore wind power in other countries: China, Japan and the United States. In Europe, the United Kingdom is at the cutting edge in this renewable energy.

Offshore wind energy is a wind farm consists of several wind turbines which produce electric power in bodies of water. Europe is the uncontested leader in this domain. The first offshore wind farm ever installed was in Denmark in 1991. In Europe there is 1136 offshore wind turbines installed in 45 wind farms in 9 countries which represents a capacity of 2, 946 MW.

China

The potential of Chinese offshore wind energy is huge. China is the second in place and has 2 operational offshore wind farms: since 2010, the big Shanghai´s East Sea Bridge with 102 MW and since 2012, the Longyuan Rudong Interdical which produces 131 MW.

What is the future of offshore wind energy in China? In 2015, China wants to produce 514 MW of offshore wind energy but new projects have been stalled. This is due to objections by maritime authorities (because of water depth of the sea areas, the authorities want to move projects further away from the coastline…). Moreover, only 72% of China´s total wind power capacity is connected to the grid. China is now looking for practical solutions for future projects and needs it for the further development of its market.

Japan

Japan has a long way to go before it can emulate the example of the EU in terms of offshore wind power development. It currently has about 28, 5 MW of installed offshore wind energy but it has to build more power grids that can reach future large-scale offshore wind farms. Which should be interesting especially in the case of Japan, considering the recent catastrophe of Fukushima, this has led Japan to seriously explore alternate possibilities for energy. Indeed, Kamitsu offshore park were near to the epicentre of the earthquake and no damage appeared on this wind farm after the tsunami. Thus, it reinforced the idea that Japan has to develop renewables in the future.

The United States

The USA has a huge potential on the coasts. However, there are no offshore wind farms at the moment. Projects are under development in wind-rich areas of the East Coast, Great Lakes and Pacific coast.

The diverse possibilities of technological choices explain the lose time in the construction but also the old grid. Recently, the President Obama approved the “Cape wind” project in Massachusetts and Google has also invested a lot of money in another similar project. The USA could certainly have a lot of success in this domain in the approaching future.

The United Kingdom

The UK (with 1, 341 MW) and Denmark (854 MW) are at the top of the 9 offshore wind energy producing countries. Despite the economic crisis, the United Kingdom’s projects in offshore wind farm are very ambitious. In fact, it has the biggest potential in offshore wind energy of Europe. For one week, London Array generated first power. Located in the Thames Estuary, it is the world´s largest offshore wind farm.

At the end of this year the 175 turbines (630 MW) will produce enough power to supply over 470,000 UK homes with electricity. The second phase will add enough capacity to generate 1,000 MW! Turbines are supplied by Siemens Wind Power which is one of the leading turbine suppliers for offshore wind power. The ownership is 50% DONG Energy (Denmark), 30% E.ON (Germany) and 20% Masdar (The Emirates). The cost of the technology (among the most expensive of renewable sources) remains high: 161 pounds to produce a MW-hour of offshore wind power. The UK government is trying to get that down to 100 pounds by 2020.

To conclude, offshore wind power can help to reduce energy imports, air pollution and greenhouse gases. It creates jobs and local business opportunities. However, according to the US Energy Information Agency, offshore wind power is the most expensive energy generating technology being considered for large scale deployment.

It remains a real possibility for European green energy policy. In 2011 a Danish energy company claimed that offshore wind turbines are not yet competitive with fossil fuels, but estimates that they will be in 15 years, until then, state funding and pension funds will be needed. In 2035 the added offshore wind power in Europe will be bigger than the one of wind onshore. France has plans for more than 2,000 MW in 4 offshore wind farms. Prices of electricity will grow significantly as global efforts to reduce carbon emissions continue that is why this resource will be more than adequate for the future. The big infrastructure in offshore systems is an economic challenge that could be reached by improving wind performance models and reducing the weight of turbine materials.

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