Europe added a total of eight new wind farms consisting of 199 offshore wind turbines—and a combined nameplate capacity of 577 MW—to the grid last year, according to a newly released report from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

This represents growth of 54% compared to the 373 MW installed during 2008. The organization said that the 10 additional European offshore wind farms will be completed in 2010, adding an estimated 1,000 MW. This would amount to a market growth of 75% compared to 2009, the report claims.

About 17 offshore wind farms are currently under construction in Europe, totaling more than 3,500 MW, with just under half being constructed in UK waters. A further 52 offshore wind farms have won full consent in European waters, totaling more than 16,000 MW, with just over half of this capacity planned in Germany, EWEA said.
In 2009, the turnover of the offshore wind industry was approximately €1.5 billion. EWEA expects this to double in 2010 to approximately €3 billion.

The industry group has been pushing the European Union to inject €255 million into the sector from its European Economic Recovery Plan, claiming that the more than 100 GW of projects at various stages of planning could provide enough power to meet 10% of European electricity demand.

According to EWEA’s report, Europe is the world leader in offshore wind with 828 wind turbines and a cumulative capacity of 2,056 MW spread across 38 offshore wind farms in nine European countries. The UK and Denmark are the current leaders, with a 44% and 30% share respectively. In 2009, five countries built new offshore wind farms: UK (284 MW), Denmark (230 MW), Sweden (30 MW), Germany (30 MW), and Norway (2.3 MW).

The first offshore wind project in North America, meanwhile, recently encountered another major hurdle earlier this month. The National Park Service ruled that Nantucket Sound—the Massachusetts site proposed for Cape Wind, is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The decision could require consideration of archaeological, historic, and cultural values in the review of the project by the Minerals Management Service—resulting in further delays of the long-disputed proposal.

The development has prompted U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to meet with all parties involved in the dispute. Salazar last week said that he intended to decide whether to approve the offshore wind project no later than April.

 “What I want everyone to understand is that we will bring this process to a conclusion,” The New York Times reported Salazar as saying. He also reportedly said the drawn-out controversy and repeated challenges were “bad for everyone involved.”

Sources: EWEA, POWERnews, The New York Times