2017 was a record year for offshore wind in Europe, according to new statistics released by WindEurope on Tuesday.
Europe connected 3.1 GW of new offshore wind power capacity to the grid in 2017, according to WindEurope’s annual report. This increased the total capacity to 15.8 GW, a 25% increase on 2016. Additionally, 13 new offshore wind farms were completed last year, including the world’s first floating wind farm, Hywind Scotland. The UK and Germany were responsible for most of the growth, with a respective 1.7 GW and 1.3 GW of new offshore wind installed.
WindEurope promotes the development of wind energy in Europe and beyond through advocacy, policy, and information sharing. Currently, Europe has more than 4,100 offshore wind turbines operating across 92 wind farms in 11 countries. Despite recent growth, offshore wind in Europe remains heavily concentrated in a small number of countries, with 98% of it split between the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
The size offshore wind farms as well as new turbines increased between 2016 and 2017. The average size of the new farms was 493 MW, a 34% increase on 2016. The average size of the new turbines was 5.9 MW in 2017, a 23% increase on the previous year.
Growth is expected to continue over the next couple of years. An additional 11 offshore wind farms are currently under construction. The projects are expected to add another 2.9 GW, bringing Europe’s total installed capacity of offshore wind power to 18.7 GW. The continent is projected to have 25 GW total by 2020.
According to WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson, “A 25% increase in one year is spectacular. Offshore wind is now a mainstream part of the power system. And the costs have fallen rapidly. Investing in offshore wind today costs no more than in conventional power generation”.
Dickson said these changes are promising: “It just shows Europe’s ready to embrace a much higher renewables target for 2030. 35% is easily achievable”.
Although 2017 saw growth in offshore wind capacity, new investment declined. New investment was around €7.5 billion in 2017, a 60% decrease from 2016, according to WindEurope. This was the first decrease in investments since 2012.
The organisation noted this is partially due to decreasing costs, but also because the transition to market-based support has slowed down new investments. Because of the delay between winning an auction and confirming an investment, auctions held in 2016 and 2017 should translate to final investment decisions worth €9 billion in 2018, according to the report.
Dickson said that although he expects continued growth in 2018 and 2019, the outlook beyond 2020 remains unclear. “Very few countries have defined yet what new volumes they want to install up to 2030”, he said.
The long-term outlook depends on what new offshore wind volumes governments commit to in their National Energy and Climate Action Plans for 2030. As governments across Europe prepare their plans, Dickson urged them to “go for it on offshore wind”. He added, “It’s perfectly affordable and getting cheaper still; it’s a stable form of power with increasing capacity factors, it’s ‘made in Europe’ and supports jobs, industry, and exports”.