European Offshore Wind Turbine Capacity Grows 51% in 2010

Europe installed 308 new offshore wind turbines in 2010—a 51% increase in installed offshore capacity over the previous year, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) said in new figures released this January. The 883 MW of new capacity—worth some €2.6 billion—were installed at nine wind farms in five countries, bringing the continent’s total offshore installed wind capacity to 2,964 MW.

According to the wind industry group, the UK, with 1,341 MW, continues to lead the world in installed offshore capacity. It is followed by Denmark (854 MW), The Netherlands (249 MW), Belgium (195 MW), Sweden (164 MW), Germany (92 MW), Ireland (25 MW), Finland (26 MW), and Norway (2.3 MW).

Among key trends was an increase in water depth and distance to the shore for turbine placement. Average water depth in 2010 was 17.4 meters (m), a 5.2-m increase over 2009, and projects under construction were in water depth averaging 25.5 m. The average distance to shore increased in 2010 by 12.7 km, to 27.1 km. That is substantially less, however, than the 35.7-km average for projects currently under construction.

During 2010, 29 new offshore turbine models were announced by 21 manufacturers; 44 new turbine models had been announced by 33 manufacturers over the past two years, EWEA said.

EWEA Chief Executive Christian Kjaer said the surge in market growth was spurred by an “improving financing environment with private banks.” This year looks promising, too, he said: Between 1,000 MW and 1,500 MW of new offshore capacity is expected to be added in 2011 (Figure 4). Kjaer added that 10 European wind farms are under construction, representing a total of 3,000 MW. These are expected to double the installed capacity of the 45 offshore wind farms already connected to the grid.

4. Shoring up. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) in January said 308 new offshore wind turbines—worth 883 MW of new capacity—were installed in Europe in 2010. In 2011, EWEA expects between 1,000 MW and 1,500 MW of new offshore wind capacity to come online. The numbers will be bolstered by mega–wind farms like Scottish and Southern’s 500-MW Greater Gabbard wind farm (shown here) off the coast of Suffolk in England. As of January 2011, all 140 Siemens Energy turbines have been installed at the Greater Gabbard wind farm, and three have generated power for the grid. Courtesy: SSE

Progress for land-based wind wasn’t so brisk. At 8.4 GW, wind power installations in 2010 were down 14% compared with 2009. “Remarkable growth in the onshore wind markets of Romania, Poland and Bulgaria could not make up for the decline in new onshore installations in Spain, Germany and the UK,” EWEA said. The group noted that other renewables in the European Union (EU) grew at a record pace, making up 41% of all new installations. Though wind accounted for 16.7% of newly installed capacity in 2010, about 7% (4,056 MW) of newly installed capacity was coal-fired. Gas power had the biggest surge, representing 51% of all new power capacity installed in the EU last year.

The U.S. wind industry, meanwhile, did no better. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in January said that only 5,115 MW of wind power were installed last year—half of 2009’s amount. This was despite, AWEA has claimed, U.S. wind costs dropping over the past two years and power purchase agreements being signed in the range of 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. As of January 2011, total U.S. wind capacity stood at 40,180 MW—the second-highest in the world, behind China for the first time. China has 41,800 MW in operation and installed new wind capacity during 2010 that was 62% more than what it had at the end of 2009.

–Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior writer.