Wind in our sails?


December 2, 2011

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Three hectic days. That seemed to be the general consensus from most conference delegates in Amsterdam this week. It’s perhaps this freneticism, though, that reflects the pace of development of the wider offshore wind industry. It has, after all, come a long way in a short space of time.

The EWEA conference report, ‘Wind In Our Sails’ reiterated this point and highlighted that the European offshore industry now has 141 GW in a variety of stages of development – ranging from the proposal, planning, construction and of course, operation.

So how realistic is this number?

Of that 141GW, roughly 10%, (114,737MW) has yet to be consented. And although offshore consent is generally granted far more quickly and with fewer objections than its onshore counterpart, there are of course far greater technical challenges involved out at sea.

In the UK, a PWC report from last year estimated that offshore wind needs to deliver 12GW of energy alone, in order to ensure the UK hits its 2020 renewable energy targets.

Given many of the issues in pre-construction financing, it’s perhaps worth questioning whether this 114,737MW will be enough to hit not only the UK target, but also a Europe wide industry aim of 40GW by 2020.

Conference delegates, almost to a man, bemoaned a lack of pan-European and national targets beyond 2020. With not enough incentives for the industry to look towards new sites, for financiers to become involved earlier to provide much needed liquidity, and for supply chain businesses to make the necessary investment in staff and technology, there’s clearly a challenge on our hands.

New targets may just be that – targets – but irrespective, they would help encourage and increase the number of MW schemes currently proposed.

If key players in offshore are going to successfully persuade policy makers to provide clear incentives for future industry investment, we need to lower costs and reduce the sector’s wider risk profile.

And since the end of a calendar year the mind is inevitably focused on business targets, let’s use this week as a chance to start looking further into the future, to help increase industry certainty.

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