Offshore wind in Europe grew 25% in 2017


2017 was a record year for offshore wind in Europe according to statistics released by WindEurope. Europe installed 3.1 GW of new offshore wind, setting a new record: twice as much as 2016 and 4% up on the previous record in 2015. Europe now has a total installed offshore wind capacity of 15,780 MW. This corresponds to 4,149 grid-connected wind turbines across 11 countries.

Europe added (net) 560 new offshore wind turbines across 17 different offshore wind farms. 14 new offshore wind farms were completed, including the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, Hywind Scotland. The UK and Germany accounted for most of them, installing 1.7 GW and 1.3 GW respectively and work is ongoing on a further 11 projects in these countries.

The average size of the new turbines installed was 5.9 MW, up 23% on 2016. And the average size of the new offshore wind farms was 493 MW, a 34% increase in 2016. The average water depth of the wind farms completed or partially completed in 2017 was 27.5 metres with an average distance to shore of 41 km.

Capacity factors are also increasing: the annual load factors of all the offshore wind farms in Europe vary between 29% and 48%. There are projects in Europe already operating at capacity factors of 54% (Anholt 1, Denmark) or even 65% (Dudgeon, the UK).

Monopiles are the dominant substructure with 87% of the market share. Jackets and gravity base respectively account for 9% and 2% of the total installed substructures. 2017 saw the installation of the first floating wind farm, allowing floating spar buoy substructures to make their entry to the market.

A further 11 offshore wind farms are currently under construction, adding another 2.9 GW. The project pipeline should contribute a total of 25 GW by 2020. But offshore wind in Europe remains heavily concentrated in a small number of countries: 98% is in the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.

2017 also saw final investment decisions (FIDs) on 6 new offshore wind projects to be installed in the coming years, representing a further 2.5 GW of new capacity. These investments are worth a total €7.5bn, which is down on 2016. This reflects falling costs in addition to the fact that new investments could still benefit from feed-in-tariffs in 2016. The transition to market-based support (auctions) has slowed down new investments, added to which there is a time lag between winning an auction and confirming an investment. Auctions held in 2016 and 2017 should translate to FIDs worth €9bn in 2018.

Beyond 2020, things are less clear. Much depends what new offshore wind volumes governments commit to in the National Energy and Climate Action Plans for 2030 (NECAPs).