Offshore Wind: How Europe Plans to Meet Clean Energy Goals
The E.U. is serious about getting clean energy on the grid. The European Parliament has set a 25% target for renewable energy by 2020. About half of that target is projected to come from wind energy. A new report, "Pure Power - Wind Energy Scenarios up to 2030," put out by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), shows that this is a feasible scenario, given current trends in the field. As of 2007, five E.U. countries (Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Germany) have more than 5% of their electricity demand supplied by wind energy. If the 2020 goal is met, wind energy could equal 38% of the EU-15's Kyoto Protocol obligation, avoid 133 mega-tons of C02, and save billions in fuel costs. Future wind production is dependent, however, on continued government/private capital investments in the offshore wind energy market.
As of 2007, there are currently 80 GW of installed wind capacity in the E.U., of which 3.5 GW derives from offshore wind. To meet the 2020 goal, EWEA’s reference scenario assumes 180 GW in 2020 and 300 GW in 2030. "The EU will have 350 GW (including 150 GW offshore) in the high scenario and 200 GW (including 40 GW offshore) in the low scenario," says the report. Either way, it appears that there is a threshold of about 200 GW of wind power that can be produced on the actual European continent itself.
Offshore wind farms have significant potential in Europe, "where there is limited space on land and relatively large offshore areas with shallow water." As the video above demonstrates, offshore wind has additional engineering and cost challenges. An EU Action Plan for Offshore Wind Energy, which will detail the feasibility of such projects on a large scale, is expected to be published in the second half of 2008.
As for the potential of offshore wind here in the U.S., a couple of innovative companies, including BluewaterWind, are in the midst of developing projects in the NorthEast. I highly recommend the BluewaterWind site for well-produced informational videos on offshore wind production in the U.S.