Market for Offshore Wind Power Installations in Europe to Soar
Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch last week reported that because of rising fossil-fuel prices and political tensions, an increasing number of European utility companies are turning to offshore wind energy installations to help their clients meet their energy needs. MarketWatch cites figures by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) which estimated that the annual installed capacity from offshore wind turbines in the last three years has more than doubled in Europe. In 2011, it reached 866 megawatts (MW). These figures surpass growth rates of onshore wind installations, which saw around 30 percent increase in installed capacity for the same period.
In addition, installed capacity at sea for 2011 alone accounted for about 10 percent of the total new installations in the European Union. Experts predict that the future for the offshore wind energy sector looks quite bright, as the surging trend is likely to continue to be driven by political goals to curb carbon emissions.
Steen Broust Nielsen, director of the Danish renewable energy consulting firm Make Consultants, told MarketWatch: “Offshore wind is still just a niche industry, but it’s a rapidly growing niche. It will count for 8 percent of the global [wind] market in 2016.”
Christian Kjaer, chief executive at European Wind Energy Association, echoed Nielsen’s forecast. According to him, the offshore resources of the North Sea alone, if properly utilised, have the potential to cover seven times Europe’s total energy consumption.
“We wouldn’t have to import fuel if we can tap into that,” he added.!m(/uploads/story/33/thumbs/offshore_turbines2_inline.png)
The top three counties holding the largest share of the European total wind capacity are: the UK with over 2,000 megawatts (MW) of installed wind power, making up for 54 percent of total capacity; Denmark – with 22.5 percent; and the Netherlands – with 6.5 percent. Among the most active investors in the sector are utility companies as they claimed 80 percent of Europe’s installed offshore capacity last year.
According to MarketWatch, Denmark’s’ DONG Energy, UK-based Vattenfall and Germany’s E.ON AG are the market leaders when it comes to investing in wind energy projects.
“In our part of the world, we’ve seen the opportunity that offshore will grow. We expect 37 GW to be installed by 2020 in Europe and the utility companies want a part of that market,” explained Christina Grumstrup Sorensen, senior vice president at DONG Energy.
The company built the first offshore wind turbine park near Vindeby, Denmark, back in 1991. Since then, DONG Energy’s investments in the sector have been going up steadily, reaching a total of 1.3 gigawatts of installed capacity today. The company is now taking on several new offshore sites in Denmark, Germany and Britain.
Other European utility companies are following suit and taking action to cash in on the investment opportunities offered by the expanding market. In France, Electricite de France SA and Alstom SA are joining forces to kick-start the sector in the country, thereby aiming to reduce dependency on nuclear as a primary source of energy. The two companies announced in April of this year that they have won the bulk of France’s first offshore-wind-farm tender.
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