Offshore wind energy set to grow 17-fold by 2020

Europe can expect "significant" renewable energy growth over the next 10 years, with offshore wind capacity increasing 17 times by 2020, while newer technologies such as solar and wave power will increase 11-fold.

That is the joint conclusion of a new study, published today (November 29) by The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), and an analysis of an earlier study of renewable energy projects by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The EWEA study analysed wind power and other renewable energy projects in 17 EU member states to ascertain renewable energy growth in the next 10 years.

According to their findings, offshore wind is projected to grow the most rapidly, with more than 141 GW of Europe’s offshore wind energy capacity, currently built, under construction, consented, or planned. This represents 35 times more capacity than the approximately 4 GW installed today, and is expected to provide 13.1% of Europe’s total energy production.

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.

Commenting on the research EWEA president Arthouros Zervos, said: “There is huge developer interest in offshore wind energy across Europe. Developers, governments and investors realise that offshore wind energy offers the growth and jobs that Europe desperately needs.”

EWEA estimates that by 2020, 40 GW of offshore wind power will produce 148 TWh annually, meeting more than 4% of the EU’s total electricity demand, while also reducing 87m tonnes of carbon emissions.

It also said that 169,000 jobs in the EU offshore wind energy sector are expected to be created by 2020, increasing to 300,000 by 2030.

Mr Zervos added: “The offshore wind energy sector can replicate the success of the onshore wind technology development, which is now a mainstream source of power competitive with new coal and gas plants, and a major European industry.

“However, to ensure this happens, EU decision-makers need to set ambitious renewable energy targets beyond 2020, invest more in research and develop offshore grids”.

Meanwhile, the EEA analysis found that European countries are also expected to significantly boost solar photovoltaic power, onshore wind and other renewable technologies. Figures suggest that onshore wind and biomass electricity have the capacity to double, while solar photovoltaic capacity could triple over the same period.

EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade, said: “This analysis is particularly timely, coming as government representatives gather to discuss climate change in Durban. It illustrates the scale of Europe’s commitment to transform its energy sector.

“However, with a concerted effort we can and should go even further to phase in renewable energy sources. Burning fossil fuels threatens the stability of our climate, and our most recent analysis has shown that pollution from coal and gas power plants is costing Europe many billions of euros a year in health costs.”

Despite growth rates in renewables, the EEA has warned that the projections show that the 2020 targets will be met by “just a narrow margin”, highlighting the challenge facing Europe as it aims to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels.

The EEA report also shows that 43% of all renewable energy production is planned for heating and cooling, with biomass accounting for 80% renewable heating and cooling output. Transport will make up the smallest proportion of renewable energy consumption (12%), but is expected to be the fastest growing element between 2005 and 2020.

The full EWEA report can be downloaded here.

Carys Matthews

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