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Europe Leads Offshore Wind Market

Even though the United States and China have taken serious steps to expand offshore wind farms, Europe leads this market segment today and is expected to do well into the next decade, according a new report from Pike Research.

The report from the market research group projects global installed offshore wind power capacity to increase from 4.1 GW in 2011 to 70.1 GW in 2017 as grid operators, equipment manufacturers, governments and investors give offshore wind farms greater attention.

Peter Asmus, a senior analyst with Pike Research and author of the report, attributes Europe's leadership primarily to public policy and a thriving wind energy industry. European Union legislation, he notes, mandates significant reductions of carbon emission, requiring, among other measures, a greater usage of renewable energy resources. In addition, some of the world's leading wind turbine manufacturers and engineering firms are based in Europe, providing a unique pool of expertise. 

Asmus cites the United Kingdom as an example of Europe's potential. The country has pre-approved 49 GW of offshore wind capacity, worth a potential investment of $100 billion.

"Of all the European nations, the United Kingdom has taken the most market-based approach to the development of its offshore wind resources," he writes. "Yet it also offers the greatest level of government subsidy. 

Pike Research forecasts that 12 GW of capacity in the United Kingdom will come online by 2017, representing a 42 percent compounded annual growth rate. Moreover, the research group expects the country, already the largest single offshore wind market in the world, to achieve revenue worth $4.5 billion by 2017.

Germany is the other key EU market, according to the Pike Research report. Despite its limited coastline and the need to go to deeper waters, the country has significantly accelerated its offshore wind development, thanks also to favourable public policy. The local wind energy sector hopes to benefit from the manufacturing capacity and knowledge that already exists with onshore wind production in north western Germany. Moreover, the country has what Asmus contends to be the most favourable transmission interconnection policies in Europe but he points to some delays with grid interconnections.

The prime challenge for Europe, according to the report, will be to secure sustainable financing.

Fast on the heals of the UK and Germany is China, according to the report. Pike Research forecasts that China’s offshore wind market will pull even with Europe’s two largest players by the end of the forecast period in 2017.

By 2020, the Chinese government plans to increase the use of alternative non-fossil energy resources to generate 15 percent of the nation's total energy consumption, according to the market research report. The county just completed the construction of its first wind farm, with a capacity of 102 MW.

The Pike report, citing China's Development Plan on Emerging Energies, says that offshore wind energy has the potential to generate more than 740 GW of China's energy, or roughly three times the wind energy potential on land. The report claims that China currently has more than 51 GW of offshore wind capacity in some stage of planning.

Pike Research assumes that 11.7 GW will come online by 2017, with a compounded annual growth rate of 70 percent.

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