Bookmark and Share

European Trends

Better Technology

Larger turbines
Europe moves to larger offshore turbines: 5 MW, 6 MW and developing the new 8 MW vs Cape Wind’s 3.6 MW

  • Siemens joins 8MW offshore turbine club with SWT-8.0-154: "With the same proven reliability as our successful 6MW and 7MW models, the SWT-8.0-154 will be the new benchmark for gearless offshore wind technology on the market." Read More (July 5, 2016)
  • Sizing up the future of offshore turbines: Link

Germany:  80 5 MW turbines and - under construction - 160 5 MW and 48 6 MW
Belgium: 6 5 MW and 48 6 MW
UK:  30 5 MW
France:  Signed a deal to manufacture components for its 5 MW offshore wind turbine.
Denmark: Vestas and Mitsubishi to develop 8 MW turbine

The European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics

3,018.5 MW of new offshore wind power capacity was connected to the grid during 2015 in Europe, a 108.3% increase over 2014 and the biggest yearly addition to capacity to date.

  • 419 new turbines were erected in 2015. Seven turbines were decommissioned in the UK and Sweden, resulting in a net addition of 412 turbines.
  • 53 of these turbines equivalent to 277 MW are awaiting grid connection.
  • 14 projects were completed in 2015. Work is on-going on six projects in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

2016 – first half
In the first six months of 2016, Europe fully grid connected 114 commercial offshore wind turbines with a combined capacity totalling 511 MW. Overall 13 commercial wind farms were under construction which once completed will have a total capacity of over 4.2 GW.

  • 114 wind turbines were fully grid connected, totalling 511 MW in 4 wind farms: Westermeerwind (NL), Gemini (NL), Gode Wind I (DE), Gode Wind II (DE).
  • 182 turbines (44 units or 32% more than during the same period last year) were erected in four wind farms in the first half of the year: Westermeerwind (NL), Gemini (NL), Gode Wind I (DE), Gode Wind II (DE). Some have been gridconnected, some have not.
  • The average size of wind turbines installed in the first half of 2016 is 4.8MW, or 15% larger than over the same period last year.
  • Seven projects, worth €14bn, reached Final Investment Decision (FID) in the first half of 2016. This will finance 3.7 GW of new capacity, a doubling from the first half of 2015 (1.8 GW).

Maintenance problems

Sweden: Sweden is dismantling its first offshore project after only 13 years because repair or replacement is too expensive and replacement parts are no longer available.  (Sept 2014)

Restrictions in and around wind projects
Belgium: Strict safety regulations forbid entry to the Belwind offshore project.
Belgium forbids entry to any vessel (with project and governmental exceptions) inside the 500m safety zone around the wind farms, because, among other things, they determined that rescue operations between the turbines are impossible.

The Netherlands: The Dutch Offshore wind project Egmond aan Zee and its 500m safety exclusion perimeter are closed to all shipping. This resulted in an area closed for fisheries in the Dutch coastal zone in which trawling occurred regularly during the last decades. 2012)

Opposition in United Kingdom

Dangers to wildlife/cost
United Kingdom: Offshore wind industry slowed by birds, sharks, raising doubts about the costs of the technology. Last February, three utilities scrapped an expansion of the world’s biggest offshore wind farm in the Thames estuary, east of London. That capped three months when each of the six largest U.K. utilities retreated from marine energy projects. The broader threat to the industry is its failure to bring down costs quickly enough in nations that are increasingly concerned about the price of electricity. “It’s either the cost because of the technical challenges or the environmental issues” that’s thwarting projects, Keith Anderson, chief executive officer of Iberdrola SA’s Scottish Power Renewables unit. 2014)

Subsidy issues
Ill wind blows turbines out of the water
November 2, 2014, UK Sunday Times: 13 years after installing the first offshore turbine in northeast England, the offshore wind industry is still struggling to take off. It may never. Thanks to billions in taxpayer subsidies, more wind turbines churn above British waters than in the rest of the world combined. The Treasury seems to be losing its stomach for supporting large-scale offshore wind development. Given growing concerns around energy affordability and UK competitiveness, one must start to question the future of the industry.

Great Britain scaling back on wind subsidies (June 2016)
"There are limits to even the European willingness to sacrifice prosperity for carbon virtue. Britain has also scaled back its wind subsidies, while Germany is trying desperately to mend its wind power market. Economic and political reality is catching up with Europe's green ambitions."
Read More

Projects scrapped
Scottish Power becomes third firm to scrap UK offshore wind farm:Scottish Power scrapped plans for a huge offshore wind farm due to tricky ground and wave conditions and the presence of protected sharks, making it the third utility in two weeks [December 2013] to drop a wind project in British waters. The power company, owned by Spain's Iberdrola, follows RWE and Centrica, which have canceled a project each, saying they were uneconomic because existing technology was not advanced enough. 2013)
Reiterated in 2014 2014) “The UK may be the world's leader in offshore wind, but the cancellation and downsizing of so many projects in quick succession made the outlook for future growth look anything but optimistic.”

Investment in offshore wind drops by over half
Wind turbines at the London Array project. Similar projects north of the Border
would present greater challenges.The SNP [Scottish National Party] administration’s hopes of hitting its ambitious green energy target have been dented by research showing that investment in offshore wind has more than halved in just 12 months. 2014)

Opposition in Germany

The cost and political shift
The public became increasingly skeptical as it saw its electricity bills going up, and politicians began discussing a cap on electricity prices. The shift in the direction of political winds immediately affected the turbine builders. Several companies that were recruiting on a large scale only a few months ago [earlier in 2013] are now laying people off. One company, has filed for bankruptcy, and others could soon follow. The offshore boom has hardly begun, and yet it already seems to be over. Half a dozen wind farms are still being built in the North Sea, but there are no follow-up contracts. "The market has collapsed," says Ronny Meyer, the managing director of Windenergie Agentur (WAB), based in the northern port city of Bremerhaven. 2013)

Senvion’s headaches
“The lull in offshore turbine orders caused by regulatory and political uncertainty has taken the wind of of Senvion’s sails, forcing it to slash staffing levels at its Bremerhaven blade factory from almost 700 to 246 – with those remaining retained on a short-term basis. Revenues fell by 20% last year…”  (June 2014)

Germany Price Shock 
Average electric prices for companies have jumped
60% and are now more than double those in the U.S.
More than 75% of small and medium industrial businesses say rising costs are a major risk. Read More (2014)

EU Financing German Offshore Wind Project
Germany is planning the build of 20 offshore wind farms, and the European Union (EU) has found that the project fall s within the scope of EU state aid rules.
Read More (April 2015)

Germany trying to mend wind power market
"There are limits to even the European willingness to sacrifice prosperity for carbon virtue. Britain has also scaled back its wind subsidies, while Germany is trying desperately to mend its wind power market. Economic and political reality is catching up with Europe's green ambitions."
Read More (June 2016)

Opposition in the Netherlands

The tourist industry has added its voice to the campaign against massive investment in wind farms off the Dutch coast. They stand to lose tens of millions of euros a year and several thousand jobs could go if the government presses ahead with placing hundreds of offshore turbines. "Tourists want to see a beautiful landscape and great views, not a wind turbine in front of their door or in the garden or the sea." (February 2014)

Opposition in Denmark

Danes are the latest to question the price of green-energy virtue (June 2016)

Denmark is reconsidering its plans to build new coastal wind farms. "The proposal to to delay construction of some coastal wind farms will save an estimated $1.06 billion over 12 years. If approved by Parliment, this would mark a welcome step toward economic and fiscal sanity. Wind advocates will note that Copenhagen still plans to add to offshore wind capacity. But the episode demonstrates that there are limits to even the European willingness to sacrifice prosperity for carbon virtue. Britain has also scaled back its wind subsidies, while Germany is trying desperately to mend its wind power market. Economic and political reality is catching up with Europe's green ambitions."
Read More (June 2016)