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Europe Doubles Its Offshore Wind Capacity, but Policy Uncertainty Still a Challenge

Europe’s offshore wind sector is twice as healthy as this time last year, according to a first look at mid-2013 statistics from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

In the first six months of this year, the trade body found, 277 offshore wind turbines with a combined capacity of more than 1 GW were fully grid-connected — double the number (132) from the first six months of last year. These turbines were at seven wind farms: Thornton Bank (Belgium), Gunfleet Sands 3 (UK), Lincs (UK), London Array (UK), Teesside (UK), Anholt (Denmark) and Bard Offshore 1 (Germany).

In addition, 254 turbines (20 percent more than last year’s figure) were constructed at 10 wind farms. Eighteen wind projects, which will have a total capacity of 5,111 MW when completed, were under construction.

New offshore capacity installations in the first half of this year also doubled compared to 2012, coming in at a mere 121 MW less than total installations for the entirety of last year.

As of the end of June, EWEA said, Europe has 1,939 turbines offshore, with a combined capacity of 6,040 MW. These turbines are fully grid-connected in European waters, at 58 wind farms in 10 countries. The average size of grid-connected wind turbines was 3.8 MW, a figure EWEA said was similar to last year’s.

Also surveyed was the work carried out on 21 offshore wind farms between January and June. Foundations and turbines were installed and/or grid connected in 18 of these, in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the UK, Sweden and Spain. Of the 21 wind farms, seven had turbines connected to the grid, with a total capacity of 1,045 MW. The UK was in the lead with 513.5 MW fully grid-connected (400 MW of which were accounted for by the London Array, according to EWEA’s charts), followed by Denmark with 352.8 MW (from the 111 turbines at Dong Energy’s Anholt wind farm).   

Three manufacturers — Siemens, REpower and BARD — connected turbines to the grid between January and June. Siemens holds the lion’s share of newly connected capacity (866 MW or 83 percent), followed by Bard (105 MW/10 percent) and REpower (74 MW/7 percent).

Siemens connected 244 turbines (88 percent of the total number) to the grid, while Bard connected 21 turbines (8 percent) and REpower connected 12 (4 percent). As Siemens’ installed machines have lower rated capacity than REpower’s and BARD’s (3.6 MW and 2.3 MW compared to 6.15 MW and 5 MW respectively), EWEA noted, Siemens showed a higher share of installed turbines than installed capacity. But two 6-MW Siemens turbines were grid-connected at the UK’s Gunfleet Sands 3 demonstration project.

Financing activity — both debt and equity — for offshore wind farms slowed down in the first half of 2013, EWEA said, after 2012’s busy close.

Commenting on the results, EWEA’s policy director Justin Wilkes said, “Offshore wind power installations were significantly higher than in the first six months of last year. But,” he cautioned, “financing of new projects has slowed down with only one project (Germany’s 288 MW Butendiek) reaching financial close so far this year. 

“This, together with a lack of orders being placed for offshore wind turbines, substructures and components, reflects the regulatory uncertainty in key offshore markets including Germany and the UK. It highlights the significant challenges faced by the offshore wind sector,” he said. 

Lead image: Gunfleet Sands wind farm under construction, courtesy Dong Energy

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