2013 a record year in Europe for offshore wind

“1,567 MW of new offshore wind power capacity were connected to the electricity grid during 2013 in Europe : 34% more capacity than the previous year which was already a record.”

While onshore wind is a global industry already well developed, offshore wind is undergoing consolidation and globalization. It is one of the most mature marine energy (for fixed offshore wind) venturing off the European coast and even to other continents, under the impetus of public policies and actors more and more present to join this promising market, which should evolve into deepest water, thanks to floating structures. Offshore wind is changing : after a focus on the European market, we are now witnessing a phase of consolidation, especially with Asian countries entering the race and, like China, which have ambitious goals.

Offshore wind power offers the benefit of wind ressources that are generally greater than on land : the winds are stronger and above all more regular, allowing a more constant installation usage rate, better production planning, and more power to be generated. One of the most advantage is that it is freed, at least in part, from the biggest obstacles encountered onshore, such as the resistance of local populations, generally hostile to the installation of wind farms near their homes due to the resulting noise or visual impact.

Offshore wind energy is a promising industry to decarbonise electricity. Still considered as a young technology, offshore wind needs the necessary political and economic supports for a wide development. The European strategy should ensure that the industry achieves its objectives. Indeed, offshore wind is one of the maritime sectors with the largest growth. Installed capacity in late 2013 was 6.6 GW (in late 2012, it was 5 GW) and could be about 8 times higher in 2020 with 43 GW, representing 4% of the electricity demand in Europe. 1,567 MW of new offshore wind power capacity were connected to the electricity grid during 2013 in Europe : 34% more capacity than the previous year which was already a record. In theory it should make the greatest impact on achieving European 2020 renewable energy targets and create more new jobs than any other renewable energy source. Several European countries rely strongly on offshore wind to fulfill their energy and climate targets.

The European offshore wind industry is in its early stage and has a huge potential for cost reduction and technological innovation. Deeper offshore wind (more than 40m) are developped to exploit the potential of European coasts. Technically, farms are becoming increasingly important, and we are now able to install machines with even greater water depths, and parallel to the trend towards deeper waters, the offshore wind sector is also developing larger turbines (the weighted average capacity rating of the 418 offshore wind turbines connected to the grid in 2013 was 4 MW, similar in size to 2012). Over the longer term, floating offshore wind should take over to allow full use of the offshore energy resources. Thanks to the benefits and potential development of floating wind, today many countries around the world have initiated projects aiming at developing the best floating technology, and ultimately bringing into service floating wind farms.

The weighted average water depth of offshore wind farms where work was carried out in 2013 was 20 m, slightly lower than in 2012 (22 m), and the average distance to shore for those same projects was 30 km, almost the same as in 2012 (29 km). Projects under construction show clearly that the average water depth and distance from shore will increase. Currently, the majority of the development of deep offshore wind is located in European waters. Developping, testing and installing attract global attention because it indicates that European countries are close to a commercial development. While European companies are leaders, they are in a global technology race. It is therefore essential that these European companies receive support for R&D in order to maintain their leadership and power, that they should take advantage of the significant potential of the internal market and export opportunities globally.

Concerning France, the government has set itself an ambitious target of 6 GW offshore installed capacity in 2020. Ambitious since the French offshore wind power fleet does not yet exist and the first wind farms will see the light of day in a few years. This ambitious target can be explained by highly favorable geographic conditions with 3500 km of maritime coasts, which is the second best potential in Europe. In order to achieve its target, France launched two call for tenders for offshore wind projects, and a third could be launch in 2014. Call for tenders allow to promote the development of projects and, more importantly, for France to establish an offshore wind industry to compete in the European market. With the first call for tenders, four sites will be developed, and two sites with the second, representing a cumulative power of 3 GW.

However, to enjoy the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the North Sea, we must put in place an appropriate legislative framework, particularly in France where the administrative red tape considerably slows projects, and develop new floating structures more suitable for the deep water. New offshore wind technology is today the most promising. Indeed, some countries such as Denmark are already saturated with onshore wind. Others may not impose any new installations to their citizens because of the negative image that the public can have for wind. Building these offshore wind turbines, where winds are stronger and more constant, thus responds to both societal demands and energy requirements.

Sources :

The European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics 2013“. European Wind Energy Association, January 2014.

The European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics 2012“. European Wind Energy Association, January 2013.

“Panorama 2014 – Les énergies marines renouvelables : des nouvelles du front de mer”. IFP Energies Nouvelles, November 2013.

French Offshore Wind Program“. French Wind Energy Association, May 2013.

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1 réponse

  1. Thomas Nouguès dit :

    Article très intéressant et synthétique.
    En ce qui concerne l’acceptation locale, je doute que ces projets puissent être considérés comme peu polémiques, comme l’ont démontré les commissions particulières de débat public des projets issus du premier appel d’offre.
    De même la question des coûts de raccordement et de maintenance n’a pas été posée. En l’état actuel des technologies, ces éléments font que le prix de l’énergie qui sera produite par ces parcs est encore très nettement supérieur à ceux des parcs éoliens terrestres. J’espère que les records d’installation permettront d’arriver rapidement à une maturité de la filière.

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