EU plans massive offshore wind push, with green job spin-offs

29 Nov 2011

EU aims to stay on top with offshore wind, as delegates from wind turbine developers such as Siemens and Vestas attended today's EWEA OFFSHORE 2011 in Amsterdam. Image courtesy of EWEA

Europe’s offshore wind sector is set to reach a major growth spurt, as developers are showing increasing interest in this clean-tech area, which appears to have massive jobs potential. European companies such as Siemens, Vestas and Vattenfall are currently global leaders, with over 99pc of the world’s installed offshore capacity in European waters.

Today the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) kicked off its annual two-day EWEA OFFSHORE 2011, which is being held in Amsterdam until 1 December.
To co-incide with the offshore wind summit, the EWEA today published its latest report Wind in our Sails, which analyses all existing offshore wind power projects in 17 EU member states, mostly in north-western Europe, while also looking at future prospects. New offshore wind farms with a capacity of 5.6GW are currently under construction in the UK, Germany and Belgium.

Investor fincancing in clean tech a top priority in EU

Investor financing in offshore wind remains a critical force, however, in order to keep Europe ahead of the game in this green tech area, as well as upskilling workers in the area to fill these new green collar jobs expected to come on-stream. Investing in smart grids is another top priority to integrate intermittent renewables such as offshore and onshore wind is also key, delegates heard today in Amsterdam.

Areas expected to flourish in the EU, creating spin-off jobs in the region of 169,000 new positions by 2020, include turbine and turbine component manufacturing as well as substructures, vessels, electrical infrastructure, which encompasses high-voltage subsea cables, and ports.

According to the latest report:

  • Over 141 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy capacity is built, under construction, consented, or planned in Europe: this is enough to power 130 million average EU households.
  • These wind farms – representing 35 times more capacity than the just under 4 GW installed today – would provide 13.1pc of Europe’s total electricity production.
  • The EWEA  predicts that 169,000 jobs in the EU offshore wind energy sector will be created by 2020, going up to 300,000 by 2030.
  • Areas for growth in offshore wind energy range from turbine and turbine component manufacturing as well as substructures, vessels, electrical infrastructure, including high voltage subsea cables, and ports.

“There is huge developer interest in offshore wind energy across Europe”, commented Arthouros Zervos, president of EWEA, earlier today.

“Developers, governments and investors realise that offshore wind energy offers the growth and jobs that Europe desperately needs.”

Offshore power grids – Baltic Sea focus

However, the new 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 are 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, said the EWEA today.
For the industry itself, there is a risk of a high-voltage subsea cable shortage in the next few years which has to be addressed urgently, said the EWEA, today, as well as a possible shortage of trained workers.

“The offshore wind energy sector can replicate the success of the onshore wind technology development, which is now a mainstream source of power competitive with new coal and gas plants, and a major European industry”, said Zervos today. “However, to ensure this happens, EU decision-makers need to set ambitious renewable energy targets beyond 2020, invest more in research and develop offshore grids.”

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic