The European Union, long the global leader in offshore wind, will likely stay that way for the next decade — even with the fast-growing wind market in China catching up.
That’s according to new figures released by Europe’s wind trade group, the European Wind Energy Association. In a report issued earlier this month, EWEA projects that the European offshore wind market will grow from 3.9 gigawatts of capacity today to 40 gigawatts of capacity, generating roughly 148 terawatt-hours of energy annually — or about 4% of Europe’s electricity demand. By 2030, cumulative installation levels could reach about 150 GW — enough capacity to generate roughly 14% of European demand.
That compares to the 30 GW of capacity expected for China’s offshore wind market by 2020, as projected by the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.
Assuming these projections are accurate, the employment numbers could be substantial. EWEA estimates that 40% of jobs in the European wind industry will be offshore by 2020, accounting for just under 170,000 jobs. And if recent growth is anything to judge by, a major boom in offshore projects through the next two decades is very likely.
Like many other energy sectors, the offshore wind industry was slowed by the global economic malaise and subsequent European Debt Crisis. But even during three years of economic troubles, offshore wind projects have grown substantially, from 318 MW in 2007 to 883 MW in 2010. Offshore installations are expected to reach roughly a gigawatt this year.
That doesn’t mean the sector is completely dry yet. The evolving debt crisis is may create yet another bottleneck into 2012 and 2013, says Christian Kjaer, the CEO of EWEA:
“The sector is coming out of the financial crisis but is still facing a potential worsening of the general economic crisis. The number of banks providing capital for offshore wind farm investments is steadily growing, although there is a continued need for attracting an increasing number of large institutional investors to offshore wind farms – presently the largest construction projects going on in Europe.”
Investors are increasingly seeking equity investments in projects, selling off stakes in offshore projects to develop new wind farms. And while no debt-based transactions were completed in the first half of this year, there are at least 900 MW of projects currently nearing closure.
Meanwhile, China is starting to keep pace with the Europeans. Developers in that country reportedly have about 1 GW of projects in varying phases of development.
Need we remind our readers that after ten years, America’s first offshore wind project — the 420-MW Cape Wind Project — is still stalled?
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