2017 was a record year for offshore wind in Europe, especially in the UK and Germany. Now it’s time for other governments to clarify their plans.
Europe installed 3.1 GW of new offshore wind, taking total capacity to 15.8 GW, an increase of 25% in just one year, according to statistics from WindEurope. Thirteen new offshore windfarms were completed, including the world’s first floating offshore windfarm, Hywind Scotland.
The UK and Germany accounted for most of them, installing 1.7 GW and 1.3 GW respectively. Europe now has over 4,000 offshore wind turbines operating across 11 countries, making a total of 15.8 GW of installed and grid-connected capacity.
The average size of the new turbines was 5.9 MW, a 23% increase on 2016. And the average size of the new offshore windfarms was 493 MW, a 34% increase on 2016. Capacity factors are increasing too. There are projects in Europe operating already at capacity factors of 54% (Anholt 1, Denmark) or even 65% (Dudgeon, UK).
A further 11 offshore windfarms are currently under construction, and they’ll add another 2.9 GW. The project pipeline should then give us 25 GW by 2020, although for the time being at least offshore wind in Europe remains heavily concentrated in a small number of countries: 98% of it is in the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.
A 25% increase in one year is spectacular. Offshore wind is now a mainstream part of the power system. And the costs have fallen rapidly. Investing in offshore wind today costs no more than in conventional power generation. It just shows Europe’s ready to embrace a much higher renewables target for 2030. “35% is easily achievable. Not least now that floating offshore windfarms are also coming online,” said WindEurope’s chief executive, Giles Dickson.
2017 also saw final investment decisions taken for a further 2.5 GW of new capacity. These investments are worth €7.5Bn (US$9.2Bn). This is down on 2016. But it reflects falling costs, plus the fact that new investments could still get feed-in-tariffs in 2016.
As Mr Dickson explained, “We’ll see further growth in 2018 and 2019. But the longer term outlook for offshore wind is less clear. Very few countries have defined yet what new volumes they want to install up to 2030. The national plans governments are preparing under the Clean Energy Package will tell us more.”
Overall, however, the message to governments as they prepare their plans is ‘go for it on offshore wind’: it’s perfectly affordable and getting cheaper still; it’s a stable form of power with increasing capacity factors; and it’s ‘made in Europe’ and supports jobs, industry and exports.