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Wind Energy Markets: Experts See Solid Offshore Growth

"Wind energy will more than triple its power output by 2020 with €194 billion [US$261.9 billion] invested in European onshore and offshore wind farms in this decade," said Justin Wilkes, policy director of EWEA. "This success is mainly driven by a strong EU regulatory framework to 2020, which we need also after 2020."

Electricity production from wind power is expected to increase from 182 TWh or 5.5 percent of total EU demand in 2010, to 581 TWh or 15.7 percent of total demand in 2020.

By 2020, said EWEA, electricity production from wind will be equivalent to the total electricity consumption of all households in France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the U.K. combined.

By 2030, 1,154 TWh (28 percent of total demand) is projected to be produced by wind, more than the EU's predicted 241 million private households are expected to consume in 2030, according to EWEA forecasts, an increase by a factor of five on today's figures.

Solid Offshore Growth

EWEA has also published its offshore wind energy statistics for the first half of 2011, showing a comfortable 4.5 percent increase in installations of offshore capacity compared with the first half of 2010.

"The sector is coming out of the financial crisis but is still facing a potential worsening of the general economic crisis. The number of banks providing capital for offshore wind farm investments is steadily growing, although there is a continued need for attracting an increasing number of large institutional investors to offshore wind farms — presently the largest construction projects going on in Europe," said Christian Kjaer, chief executive officer of EWEA.

Several wind farms in Germany and the U.K. will reach financial close in 2011, and — EWEA says — financial institutions will provide a record amount of financing to the sector at over €3 billion ($4 billion). Between three and five transactions are expected to close during the course of the year. Equity financing, including divestment of stakes in existing projects in order to initiate new ones, highlights new approaches to financing among developers and power companies following the financial crisis, the group adds.

In the first six months of 2011, 101 new offshore wind turbines totalling 348.1 MW were connected to the power grids of the U.K., Germany and Norway. Offshore wind farms worth some €8.5 billion ($11.4 billion) are currently under construction in European waters. Once completed, they will represent a total installed capacity of 2844 MW. In Europe, as of June 2011, there were 1,247 offshore wind turbines fully grid-connected with a total capacity of 3,294 MW in 49 wind farms spread over nine countries.

By 2020, electricity production from wind energy will be 581 TWh or 15.7% of total demand in the European Union, EWEA believes. By 2030, 1154 TWh or 28% of total demand is projected (Source: EWEA)

During the first half of 2011, average wind turbine capacity increased to 3.4 MW, as opposed to 2.9 MW last year — a growth achieved with seven fewer turbines than in the same period last year. This is a result of the move towards deploying larger machines offshore. This trend is expected to continue considering the new wind turbine announcements that have been made in recent months, said EWEA.

Three manufacturers had offshore wind turbines grid-connected during the first quarter of 2011. Siemens dominated the rankings with an 84 percent market share, followed by BARD with 16 percent. The SWAY 15-kW floating turbine was installed in Bergen to serve as a prototype aiming ultimately at the development of the 10-MW SWAY floating wind turbine. In addition, REpower turbines were erected, but not fully grid-connected during the first six months of the year.

Financing activity in the offshore wind farm sector is picking up following the major transactions signed in late 2010, including the debt financings on a non-recourse basis for C Power (Belgium, 325 MW) and Borkum West 2 (Germany, 200 MW), and the sale of a minority stake in the 375-MW Walney site in the U.K. While no debt transactions have been closed in the first half of 2011, several projects formally approached the banking market during that period and should close in the very near future, EWEA says. The projects expected to be financed in 2011 include several wind farms in Germany such as Globaltech 1 (400 MW), Meerwind (288 MW) and Baltic 1, and in the U.K. such as Lincs (270 MW), and Masdar's 20 percent stake in the London Array (126 MW). After the early transactions which took place mainly in the Benelux countries, the debt market is now moving to the countries most active in offshore wind development.

Positive Trends

EWEA noted several positive trends with respect to these transactions and the overall market:

  • The number of banks willing to take offshore wind risk is steadily growing — more than 20 institutions have now obtained firm credit committee approval;
  • The recently unveiled KfW program for offshore wind, which will provide up to €5 billion ($6.7 billion) to 10 projects in Germany, is a major step towards ensuring the development of non-recourse financing in that country. Two transactions expected to close shortly (Globaltech 1 and Meerwind) have tapped into the programme and will demonstrate its capacity to provide both volume and cheaper funding to the sector;
  • Danish export credit agency EKF and the European Investment Bank (EIB) continue to support transactions; the arrival of new banks and of KfW is slowly allowing EKF and the EIB to reduce their volume of new commitments, but their participation in new financing is still seen as positive by investors and commercial lenders alike; and
  • The U.K.'s Green Investment Bank, announced in May, should provide additional financing capacity to the industry once it is up and running.

Non-recourse lending is also now becoming a large contributor, and could provide a significant portion of funding for nearly 50 percent of the capacity under construction by the end of the year, EWEA says.

While no two projects are alike, EWEA argues that the key lesson this year is that projects which want to find debt finance can do so if they do their homework, fulfilling the increasingly consistent requirements of the banks.

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