For Europe, 2017 was a record-breaking year when it came to offshore wind power. And Britain was leading the way.
The UK was responsible for more than half of the offshore wind power capacity that was built across the continent last year — closely followed by Germany, then Belgium, France, and Finland.
Across Europe, there was a 25% increase in volume that was described as “pretty spectacular” by WindEurope’s chief executive Giles Dickson, who added that offshore wind was now a mainstream part of Europe’s power system.
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“It just shows Europe’s ready to embrace a much higher renewables target for 2030,” he said in a statement. “35% is easily achievable.”
Europe now has more than 4,000 offshore wind turbines across 11 countries, according to WindEurope — with 13 new farms completed in 2017.
And the increase in wind energy is largely thanks to investment, new farms in the North Sea and other shallow European waters, and the ever-growing turbines themselves.
The 8-9 megawatt turbines which developers currently opt for are around 195m tall — that’s compared to the 135m-high London Eye, for example.
But it’s estimated that by 2024, turbines will instead by 13MW-15MW and they’ll be an enormous 265m high, reported the Guardian. That’s almost as big as Europe’s tallest building, the Shard in London, which stands at 310m high.
More than 500 turbines were connected to the grid last year, and the average amount of power that each turbine can produce was up by more than 20%.
That means 17 windfarms were, on average, a third more powerful.
Across Europe, a net capacity of 3.15GW was installed in 2017 — beating the previous record which had been set in 2015.
Of the total, 1,679MW were provided by turbines built by the UK — some 53%. Germany provided 1,247MW, and Belgium, France, and Finland combined created 227MW.
France also deployed its first-ever offshore turbine, which is a single one that floats. Meanwhile, Norway’s oil firm Statoil launched the world’s first floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland.
And 2018 is set to be another record-breaking year — with 11 offshore wind farms currently being build, according to WindEurope, that will add another 2.9GW once completed.
The increased wind energy capacity in Europe comes after the price of creating power from offshore wind fell to record lows in 2017 — meaning that energy from offshore wind farms was cheaper to produce than energy from new nuclear plants for the first time ever.
Government ministers said in September that the offshore wind sector would invest £17.5 billion in the UK before 2021, and would create thousands of new jobs in British businesses. It would also create enough clear power for 3.6 million UK homes.
Dickson added, however, that across Europe, the longer term outlook for offshore wind is unclear, as few countries have decided yet what new volumes they want to install before 2030.
“The message to governments as they prepare their plans is ‘go for it on offshore wind’,” he said. “It’s perfectly affordable and getting cheaper still; it’s a stable form of power with increasing capacity factors, and it’s ‘made in Europe’ and supports jobs, industry, and exports.”
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