Over 141 GW of offshore wind energy capacity is built, under construction, consented or planned in Europe, which is enough to power 130 million average European households, finds a new report from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
According to the report, wind farms – representing 35 times more capacity than the less than 4 GW installed today – would provide 13.1% of Europe's total electricity production.
The report analyzes all existing offshore wind power projects in 17 European Union (EU) member states, mostly in northwestern Europe. New offshore wind farms with a capacity of 5.6 GW are currently under construction in the U.K., Germany and Belgium.
Notably, 169,000 jobs in the EU offshore wind energy sector are expected to be created by 2020, increasing to 300,000 jobs by 2030, the EWEA report finds.
Areas for growth in offshore wind energy include turbine and turbine-component manufacturing, as well as substructures, vessels, electrical infrastructure and ports.
However, the report warns that if the offshore wind energy sector's potential is to be fulfilled in Europe, it is imperative that sufficient levels of financing be brought in by investors. Also crucial are the financing and building of offshore power grids in the northern and Baltic seas, which would enable huge amounts of electricity to be transported to consumers, EWEA notes.
For the industry itself, there is a risk of a high-voltage subsea-cable shortage in the next few years – an issue that has to be addressed urgently – as well as a possible shortage of trained workers, the report cautions.
‘The offshore wind energy sector can replicate the success of onshore wind technology development, which is now a mainstream source of power competitive with new coal and gas plants, and a major European industry," says Arthouros Zervos, president of EWEA. ‘However, to ensure this happens, EU decision-makers need to set ambitious renewable energy targets beyond 2020, invest more in research and develop an offshore grid.’