From the Editor

Latest figures from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) reveal the apparently inexorable rise of offshore wind power generation.

Indeed, with 308 new offshore wind turbines installed in 2010 – up 51% on the previous year – offshore wind power saw record expansion in Europe. In total,883 MW of new capacity was installed last year across five countries, bringing Europe’s cumulative total to around 3 GW. Furthermore, EWEA forecasts predict continued strong growth in 2011, with up to 1.5 GW of new offshore expected to be connected across Europe.

Recent BTM Consult figures show that wind, both on- and offshore, continues to be the fastest growing electricity generation technology, with an annual average growth rate of more than 27% for the past five years. And the firm’s assessment of the offshore industry’s project pipeline indicates that – led by the UK and Germany – more than 16 GW of additional capacity will be installed before the end of 2014. While Europe is set to dominate the offshore sector over the coming few years, BTM Consult’s projections suggest offshore capacity will total 75 GW worldwide by 2020, with a significant contribution to this figure coming from China beyond 2015.

BTM projects that by 2020, offshore will provide 22% of Europe’s overall wind power and about 12% of China’s.

In this edition of our Wind Technology supplement we look at the key considerations in developing a fleet of offshore vessels that will be necessary to enable this rate of development. Meanwhile, we consider the development of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) standards which will determine how wind technologies and the components associated with wind turbines will electromagnetically interact. Looking ahead, we examine future sources of rare earth elements, a key issue in developing a robust supply chain of permanent magnet generators given concerns over recent trade restrictions.

In an extract from an ECN report, we also present an overview of some of the major trends in the larger capacity drivetrain designs.

Overall, global wind power installations gained 35.8 GW in 2010, according to Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) figures. And, for the first time most new wind power was added outside the traditional markets in Europe and North America. This growth came largely from China, which accounted for nearly half of all new installations recording some 16.5 GW of new capacity in 2010. Other developing countries also expanded their wind capacity. For example, India added 2.1 GW, Brazil 326 MW and Mexico 316 MW. North Africa – Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia – installed 213 MW. Steve Sawyer, GWEC’s secretary-general, said he expected this trend to develop further, not only in Asia but also in Latin America, especially Brazil and Mexico, as well as in both North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

But despite these headline figures, confidence in the industry has perhaps been dented by the news that new installations slipped last year for the first time in 20 years, down 7% from 2009. Added capacity in the US halved from 10 GW in 2009 to just over 5 GW. In Europe, new installed capacity in 2010 was 7.5% down on 2009, despite the 51% rise in the offshore market. Said Sawyer: ‘2010 was a tough year for most industries, and wind power was no exception’. However, he also added that: ‘2011 will be better.’ So far, the signs seem to suggest that he’s right.

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