Some 132 new offshore wind turbines were fully grid connected in Europe in the first six months of 2012, a 50pc increase when compared with the same period in 2011, statistics released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) today have revealed.
According to the EWEA, the 132 new offshore wind turbines combined a total 523.2 megawatts (MW).
EWEA CEO Christian Kjaer said today that offshore wind power is increasingly attracting investors, including pension funds and other institutional and corporate investors.
However, he said it would be "good to see more activity in southern Europe" to spur on jobs, investment and growth in these regions.
The EWEA has pinpointed that the year 2012 in its entirety could turn out to be the best year ever for offshore wind energy in Europe. This is because 160 turbines, totalling 647.4MW, are built but still waiting on grid connections.
“This is subject to weather conditions at sea and grid connection delays," said the EWEA.
Figures from the latest EWEA report on Europe’s offshore wind sector
But what does the current installed offshore wind farms translate to in terms of electricity? The EWEA said a total of 4,336MW offshore wind capacity was operating as of 30 June 2012, producing electricity for the equivalent of 4m households.
In relation to Ireland’s stake in the sector, the Arklow bank offshore wind farm is a 25MW partnership venture between Airtricity and GE Energy that has been operational since 2004. The project is currently in phase 1.
Late December at its Offshore 2011 conference in Amsterdam, the EWEA predicted 169,000 jobs in the EU offshore wind energy sector will be created by 2020, going up to 300,000 by 2030.
At the time, it said areas the EWEA expected to flourish in the EU, creating spin-off jobs in the region of 169,000 new positions by 2020, encompassed turbine and turbine-component manufacturing, as well as substructures, vessels, and electrical infrastructure, which involves high-voltage subsea cables, and ports.
One Irish company that is tapping into this clean-tech area is Arklow Marine Services. In January, the company revealed its new 20-metre aluminum catamaran, which it designed and built specifically for servicing offshore wind farms in the UK.
The catamaran cost stg£1.7m to create and created 10 new jobs in the Wicklow region during the build and fit out.
As for investor financing in offshore wind, the EWEA report out today claimed financing activity remained "solid" in the first half of 2012 despite the general challenges of the European banking sector. It said several landmark transactions closed this spring, including non-recourse financing that was closed for the Gunfleet Sands 172MW project in the UK.
On the equity side, in the first half of 2012, the EWEA said two major transactions were announced. These were the purchase by EDF of a 50pc interest in ENECO’s Isle of Wight Round 3 project in the UK, and the acquisition by the Hochtief/Ventizz joint venture of the development rights to four Enova offshore wind farms in Germany.