UK - Market leader aims for record growth
The UK may be ahead of other countries in terms of installed capacity and have enough projects planned to remain market leader, but with its target almost twice that of Germany's and some projects for Round 3 set far from shore, 2020 may come round too soon.
The UK's total operational offshore wind capacity currently stands at 3.65GW — far greater than any other country in the world. In the past two years alone, nearly 1.8GW of capacity has been added, from five projects: the 630MW London Array, 504MW Greater Gabbard, 317MW Sheringham Shoal, 270MW Lincs and 62MW Teesside projects.
Recent months have seen no let up in construction activity. Work is continuing and set to be completed in 2014-15 on more than 1GW, at the 576MW Gwynt y Mor, 389MW West of Duddon Sands and 219MW Humber Gateway projects. Another 210MW from Westermost Rough should also be online by 2015.
Achieving around 5GW by 2015 seems impressive, but by 2020 or shortly afterwards the total could be more than three times that amount. In the Irish Sea, two extension projects — Walney Extension and Burbo Bank Extension — will add 1GW. In the North Sea, more than 2.6GW will come from four projects: the 400MW Dudgeon, 534MW Race Bank, Triton Knoll's 1.2GW and Galloper's 504MW extension. The 240MW London Array 2 and 51MW Kentish Flats Extension will boost capacity in the outer Thames estuary by almost 300MW. These projects, part of the second round of sites leased out from 2003 by the Crown Estate, landlord of UK waters, are all in progress, although construction has yet to start. Two demonstration sites — one off Blyth, Northumberland, the other off Aberdeen in eastern Scotland — will add a further 200MW.
Of the third round of leasing from the Crown Estate, Dogger Bank in the North Sea is the largest. The first phase of its development, Dogger Bank Creyke Beck, would see two projects of up to 1.2GW each built. They could be online by 2020. To the south, the phased development of the East Anglia zone is also planned. The 1.2GW East Anglia One could come online around 2018, with East Anglia II-VI following after 2020. Meanwhile, the Hornsea zone is the focus of 4GW of development. Its first 1.2GW phase should be online by 2019 or 2020.
The 2.2GW Rhiannon project would be the first phase of development of the Irish Sea zone. It should be at least partially up and running by 2020. In the English Channel, Rampion would add up to 700MW around 2019, while the 1.1GW Navitus Bay could come online a year or two later. The 1.2GW Atlantic Array, planned for a site in the Bristol Channel, could also come online shortly after that.
Scottish waters are the focus of much development. While nothing is yet being constructed, more than 1GW capacity in the Moray Firth in the north-east is seeking permission and, if approved, is aiming to come online towards the end of the decade. The 1GW Beatrice project could also be online by 2020.
Further south, the initial phase of development in the Firth of Forth zone would see two 525MW offshore wind farms built by Seagreen Wind Energy, a joint venture between construction company Fluor and utility SSE. The Alpha and Bravo projects could be online by 2020, as could the 905MW Inch Cape. Developer Mainstream's 450MW Neart na Gaoithe, already granted consent for onshore works, could also be operating around that time, if Marine Scotland adds its consent.
And off the coast of County Down in Northern Ireland, the First Flight Wind project would add a further 600MW to the UK's total by 2020. It would be Northern Ireland's first offshore wind farm.
The UK is aiming for 18GW of offshore wind by 2020 and if all these projects go online on schedule that objective will be met. Industry body RenewableUK believes that it is feasible. But with projects of this scale, comprising huge numbers of turbines and requiring massive volumes of finance, manpower and expertise, it is inconceivable that all will go smoothly. Delays - in permitting, tendering, contracting, construction and commissioning - are inevitable.
And that does not take into account the risk of changes to the policy framework. The ongoing uncertainty of government policy continues to unsettle renewables development. When policy is finally set, developers may be forced to reconsider their plans and that could mean delayed, or even abandoned, projects. With these risks in mind, a more conservative estimate might see the UK's offshore wind capacity reaching around 10GW by 2020. And that is still an impressive total that would comfortably outstrip other countries and leave the UK on top of the global league table for installed capacity.
Current offshore capacity 3.65GW
NREAP 2020 aim 18GW
Realistic forecast 10-13GW by 2020
Republic of Ireland - Ireland waits for export link
The Republic of Ireland's existing operational offshore wind capacity is small, at just 25.2MW. The seven-turbine Arklow Bank came online in 2004 and might have heralded the beginnings of large-scale growth in capacity. But the 2008 financial crisis, recession and other factors stalled activity and no offshore wind capacity has been added since.
Ambitious plans still exist for a capacity growth in Irish waters - including an expansion at Arklow Bank - but their coming to fruition depends largely on Ireland reaching an agreement currently in negotiation with the UK on the export of power via the East-West Interconnector. Without that, the addition of any capacity by 2020 is highly unlikely.
If export markets are opened up, the 330MW Oriel project planned off County Louth could be at the forefront. Permitting is largely in place and a UK-Irish agreement would trigger the 55-turbine project's progression. A 2017 online date is considered feasible.
The proposed 220-turbine Codling Bank offshore wind farm could add a further 1.1GW. Planned for a site off the Wicklow coast, it could be online by 2020. Codling Bank Extension could add a further 1GW over the longer term.
The planned 520MW Dublin Array project is also "progressing well", according to the developer, Saorgus Energy. Consideration of the lease application is awaited, but Saorgus is also waiting for agreement on electricity exports and an online date remains unclear.
Galway-based Fuinneamh Sceirde Teoranta is planning a 100MW offshore wind farm at Skerd Rocks, 5-8 kilometres off the coast of Carna, County Galway. The project - the only one proposed off the west coast - awaits approval and is unlikely to be online by 2020.
Current offshore capacity 25MW
NREAP 2020 aim 555MW
Realistic forecast 355MW
France - Home-grown plans
The chances of France hitting its original 2020 offshore wind target of 6GW have dwindled to zero. Only four projects, amounting to 1.93GW, have been granted tenders, and they are all now going through the country's complex permitting procedures. If they come through this without delays or major revisions, by no means a given, construction will start in 2015. They should be providing the first French offshore wind-generated electricity by 2018, but are not timetabled to be fully commissioned until April 2020.
In July 2011, the French government launched a competitive tender for five offshore sites with a total capacity of 3GW, and announced the result in April 2012. The clear winner was a consortium headed by EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDF EN), specifying Alstom's new 6MW Haliade turbine, which was awarded the tender for three 450-498MW sites: Courseulles-sur Mer off lower Normandy, Fecamp off upper Normandy, and Saint Nazaire on the Atlantic Coast.
Ailes Marines, a joint venture between Iberdrola and Eole-RES, which opted for Areva's 5MW turbine, won the tender for the 500MW Saint-Brieuc project off the coast of Brittany. The fifth site, Le Treport off upper Normandy with a potential capacity of 750MW, was withdrawn from the tendering process after receiving only one bid.
Le Treport was retendered with a reduced capacity of 500MW in the second round in January 2013, as well as a similar-sized project near the island of Nourmoutier in the Atlantic. Deadline for bids is 29 November, with the results due to be announced in March 2014.
The timetable for commissioning these two projects calls for the winning developers to commission 40% of capacity within 7.25 years of them being awarded, and achieve full operation two years later. That would leave France still short of 3GW of offshore wind - less than half its 2020 target - in September 2023.
The relaxed timetabling reflects the concern that the first four projects have been scheduled to go online before work will be completed on the cable connections linking them to the onshore network. Studies by French transmission system operator RTE indicate that grid connections will not be in place until 2019 at the earliest.
The major beneficiary of France's offshore plans to date is turbine maker Alstom, which is now gearing up the manufacturing and assembly facilities required to start series production of its 6MW Haliade turbine. The company started constructing two new factories in the harbour zone of Saint-Nazaire in January 2013, which it expects to be commissioned some time in 2014. They will be entirely devoted to assembling nacelles and manufacturing generators, while other new plants in Cherbourg will be responsible for the production of blades and towers. Alstom claims its new works will create about 1,000 direct jobs and another 4,000 indirect jobs for suppliers and sub-contractors, and that turbine production in serious numbers will start from 2016.
Current offshore capacity Zero
NREAP 2020 aim 6GW
Realistic forecast Up to 2GW by 2020
Germany - Progress picks up pace
Germany's ambitious 2020 National Renewable Energy Action Plan target of 10GW of offshore wind is beginning to look well out of reach. The country has brought three offshore projects fully online, totalling just 510MW. The 60MW Alpha Ventus project in the North Sea went online in 2010, the 48.3MW Baltic 1 wind farm in the Baltic Sea in 2011. Commissioning of the 400MW Bard Offshore 1 project began in 2010 and was completed in August 2013 after considerable budget and schedule overruns.
Several offshore wind farms are currently under construction, of which the 400MW Global Tech 1 project and the 200MW Borkum West 2 phase 1 could be commissioned by the end of the year.
The pace of progress should speed up in 2014-15 with five offshore wind farms scheduled for part or full commissioning: Meerwind Sud/Ost (288MW), Riffgat (108MW), Nordsee Ost (295MW), Dan Tysk (288MW), Borkum Riffgrund 1 (277MW), and Baltic 2 (288MW).
That would take Germany's offshore capacity to nearly 2.7GW, making it one of Europe's leading players in the sector, yet still leaving it well shy of its target.
The few German nearshore projects, such as Nordergrunde, are permitted by the local federal state authorities, but extensive nature protection areas along Germany's short coastlines prevent any large-scale nearshore wind development. As a result, Germany's offshore wind project developments invariably require working a long way from the coast, often in relatively deep waters, which makes construction more difficult and more expensive.
Including those already commissioned, 30 projects have been permitted for sites in the German exclusive economic zone of the North Sea and Baltic Sea, with dates set for when construction should begin. These dates can and are expected to be extended.
Opinions vary as to whether Germany will have 6GW or up to 8GW of offshore wind in operation by the end of 2020, but there is near universal agreement that the 10GW target will not be reached. Initially plagued by delays in completion of the marine cables to take the wind-generated electricity to shore, it is the support uncertainty that is now the issue. The industry hopes for swift legislation by the new German government, but might have to wait for the full revision of the Renewable Energy Act, which may not be implemented before the start of 2015.
Countering accusations of being one of the most expensive types of renewables generation, a study commissioned by the German Offshore Foundation and others, released in August 2013, found offshore wind generation costs could be reduced by one third if German developments can continue steadily over the next ten years to reach 9GW or more by 2023.
Current offshore capacity 510MW
NREAP 2020 aim 10GW
Realistic forecast 6-8GW
Spain & Portugal- No lift-off in Iberian waters
Wind capacity in Spanish waters remains at zero. Around 35 projects totalling nearly 9.5GW, some dating to the late 1990s, have been on hold since the 2008 economic meltdown. The country's supposedly binding EU commitment to reach 750MW offshore by 2020 is out of reach. "If there's no money to support cheaper onshore sites, much more expensive offshore wind doesn't stand a chance," says Alberto Cena, technical director of wind association AEE.
Spanish developers, especially utility Iberdrola, are gaining experience through big projects in the UK and Germany, with the aim to then turn to the offshore waters of Spain and Portugal at a later stage, says Peter Sweatman of renewables consultants Climate Strategy.
At home, the Spanish industry is focusing on research and development, especially for the floating foundation technology needed to tackle the deep waters near most of the Iberian coastline. But the most ambitious project, the 70MW semi-public Zefir test centre near the Port of Tarragona - with a 50MW floating phase - is on indefinite hold due to lack of financing.
Spain's R&D drive now rests mainly on two EU-funded projects. The EUR36 million Floatgen project is the biggest EU funded wind project. Spain's Gamesa and domestic competitor Acciona are committed to installing a 2MW and 3MW floating turbine, respectively, at deepwater sites in the Mediterranean by 2017. The EUR20 million HiPRWind project had aimed to install a floating 3MW Acciona turbine at a site near Bilbao by summer 2013, but that has now been pushed back to summer 2014.
Reduced revenue due to onshore market shrinkage at home, coupled with financing difficulties, have left a dark cloud over Spain's offshore prospects. French manufacturer Alstom, which had reserved a position at Zefir to test its 6MW offshore turbine, developed entirely in Spain, said: "There is no visibility for offshore in Spain; not even for experimental plants."
Gamesa, still with no turbine installed offshore, offered a glimmer of hope this spring when it installed the offshore 5MW prototype on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. The foundations, although dry, are on the Arinaga quay, jutting out to sea.
Current offshore capacity Zero
NREAP 2020 aim 750MW
Realistic forecast No change for some years
Portugal's 2020 target of 75MW in offshore capacity looks distinctly modest, but it still appears out of reach. The country does at least have some working hardware at sea in the shape of the EU-funded Windfloat prototype, six kilometres off Povoa de Vazim. Its ambitions remain with floating technology reflecting the sharply shelving seabed near its coastline.
Commissioned in June 2012, Windfloat comprises a 2MW Vestas turbine on a floating structure from US firm PrinciplePower, co-developer with EDP Renovaveis and Spanish developer Repsol. EDP declined to confirm the planned 25MW extension to Windfloat was on hold. Wind association Apren knows of no other offshore project moving in the country.
Current offshore capacity 2MW
NREAP 2020 aim 75MW
Realistic forecast No change for some years
Italy - Switching tariffs onshore
With zero capacity currently installed, and no projects set to come online in the near term, Italy looks unlikely to achieve its target of 680MW for offshore wind by 2020. Italian wind energy association Anev and renewable energy association Assorinnovabili are lobbying the government to shift a portion of the feed-in tariffs currently earmarked for offshore wind on to onshore projects, a sure sign that most industry participants also view the target as beyond reach.
"It's possible there will be something operating offshore in 2020, but I absolutely don't think it's possible to get to 680MW," says Alessandro Totaro, who is responsible for wind energy at Assorinnovabili. He notes that Italy's offshore wind resources cannot compete with northern Europe, while sea depths off much of the Italian coastline are excessive for conventional offshore wind farms. Aside from technical issues, largely already incorporated in Italy's modest target, a complex bureaucratic process and the opposition of many Italian regional governments to offshore wind farms have also contributed to slow development.
While no Italian offshore projects have even been completely authorised, a handful are at a relatively advanced stage. Among these, one 30MW project near the Taranto port in the Apulia region was earlier this year assigned an offshore FIT. Even though the incentive was available for up to 650MW offshore, that project has been the only one to even bid for the offshore FIT in two auctions to date, leading trade associations to push for these funds to be made available onshore.
Luca Wagner, general manager of offshore Italian wind developer Effeventi, which has a 168MW project off the coast of Molise, nonetheless believes a few hundred megawatts of offshore wind capacity could be up and running in 2020. "We've just been asked to change our layout for the umpteenth time, but we have no intention of giving up," he said.
Current offshore capacity: Zero
NREAP 2020 aim: 680MW
Realistic forecast: Up to 200MW
The Netherlands - Moving the goalpost
The Netherlands' response to the realisation that it would not reach its 2020 target for offshore wind was simply to move the goalposts. It has now set 2023 as the date by which 16% of its energy will be generated by renewable sources, with offshore wind to contribute 4.45GW. Two offshore projects are now operating: Egmond aan Zee (108MW), which came online in 2006, and Princess Amalia (120MW), fully operational since 2008. Nothing has been completed since.
Offshore development ground to a complete halt as the financial crisis struck, convincing the national government that offshore wind was too expensive to be a priority. The current administration, established after a general election in September 2012, is trying to put offshore wind back on the agenda. It now seems likely that several projects will be completed over the next few years, but what that will add by 2020 remains unclear.
The Mitsubishi Corporation has taken a 50% stake in the 129MW Luchterduinen project that is being developed by Dutch utility Eneco. Construction is due to start in July 2014 and to be completed in summer 2015, with Vestas supplying 43 V112 3MW turbines. Eneco is also behind the 282MW Brown Ridge Oost project, which should start generating electricity in 2016, while RWE's 295MW Tromp Binnen development could also come online in the next year or two.
There is no shortage of projects in the pipeline, but political uncertainty and lack of finance make it hard to predict which will see the light of day, and when.
Current offshore capacity: 228MW
NREAP 2023 aim: 4.45GW by 2023
Realistic forecast: From 939MW by 2020
Belgium - Success in planning
The inauguration of the 325MW Thornton Bank project in the summer lifted Belgium's installed offshore capacity to 495MW. That is still some way short of the 2GW target, but there is enough in the immediate pipeline to suggest Belgium is on course.
Construction on the 216MW Northwind project started in April 2013 and commissioning is scheduled for 2014. By the end of 2015, the 360MW Norther and 165MW Belwind 2 projects should also be fully up and running, taking Belgium to a total of 1,236MW.
Two other projects, THV Mermaid (235-490MW), and Rentel (288-550MW), are both in the pipeline but still at a very early stage in development.
Belgium's success, despite having only 67 kilometres of coastline, can be attributed to the early establishment of seven zones designated exclusively for offshore wind. This little wedge of sea has been depleted to the point of being of little use as a fishery and there is no competition from the oil and gas industries. The wind industry has been free to develop without being embroiled in lengthy permitting procedures.
Current offshore capacity: 495MW
NREAP 2020 aim: 2GW
Realistic forecast: At least 1.3GW
Denmark - Early adopter on track
Completing the 400MW Anholt offshore wind farm on schedule and on budget in June was the highlight of Denmark's wind energy industry in 2013. The project is 50% owned by Dong Energy, which is largely owned by the Danish state, while the other stakeholders are both pension funds: PensionDanmark (30%); and PKA (20%). The substantial interest demonstrated by such cautious investors indicates how secure and stable earnings from the project are expected to be.
Anholt is Denmark's 13th and largest offshore project. Its commissioning took the country's offshore installed capacity to 1.292GW, tantalisingly close to its 2020 target of 1.339GW. While most EU countries look set to miss their targets, some by a considerable amount, Denmark is in the happy position of comfortably exceeding it.
Planning for the future, the Danish government's Energy Policy Report 2012 heralded 1GW of offshore wind to be put up for tender, comprising the 400MW Horns Rev 3 and the 600MW Kriegers Flak projects.
The Horns Rev 3 timeline calls for preliminary tenders to be submitted by September 2014 and binding tenders by December 2014, with a view to concession contract and construction permits being awarded in early 2015. Connection to the grid is guaranteed from the start of 2017, with full operation expected for early 2020.
The timeline for Kriegers Flak requires preliminary tenders by 29 April 2015, binding tenders four months later, and contract and permits to be awarded in the autumn. Grid connection is guaranteed from July 2018 and the project is scheduled for full commissioning by early 2020.
Another 500MW of offshore wind, of which 50MW would serve research and development, is earmarked for other coastal areas. Together with Horns Rev 3 and Kriegers Flak, this would add 1.5GW to Denmark's offshore capacity by 2020, taking it close to 3GW in total.
Current offshore capacity: 1.29GW
NREAP 2020 aim: 1.339GW
Realistic forecast: 3GW
Sweden - Above and beyond
E.on's 48MW Karehamn offshore wind project in the Swedish Baltic Sea was fully commissioned in July 2013, marking a success for the sector following the disappointing complete outage of the 110MW Lillgrund offshore wind farm for several weeks due to a transmission cable fault in May 2013.
Sweden lacks verve in the offshore wind sector, having already reached its overall renewables target for 2020 of 49% renewables in electricity supply by 2012. Its National Renewable Energy Action Plan indicative target for offshore wind in 2020 is just 182MW, which it has already exceeded.
Nevertheless, developers are pushing hard to get projects under way. German energy company E.on is at loggerheads with transmission system operator Svenska Kraftnat over whether its planned 700MW Sodra Midsjobanken offshore project can be directly connected to the 700MW Nordbalt transmission interconnector, due to link Sweden with Lithuania from 2016. This would save E.on costs, but the interconnector is designed for electricity trading purposes and the offshore wind farm may be required to have its own connection to the onshore network.
Other projects in the pipeline include the major 2.5GW Blekinge project under development by Eolus Vind (55%), Vingkraft (35%), and VindIn (10%); a proposed repowering of the five-turbine 2.75MW Bockstigen project that went online in 1997, and WPD Offshore's 265MW Storgrundet and 1.1GW Finngrunden projects.
Current offshore capacity: 208MW
NREAP 2020 aim: 182MW
Realistic forecast: 1GW
Finland - Odds-on
Despite good wind speeds and shallow waters, Finland is not prioritising offshore wind. The country mainly set its sights on new nuclear capacity to reduce heavy energy imports from Russia, but huge delays and budget overrun in the 1.6GW Olkiluoto nuclear unit may prompt a change of heart.
Finland's current offshore wind capacity stands at only 32MW if the near shore Kemi Ajos projects are included. There is also no trajectory for offshore wind developments in the country's renewable action plan, but it does slate 900MW to be commissioned by 2020.
There are certainly plenty of wind projects on the radar. By end-August 2013, 17 projects totalling about 3GW of offshore capacity formed part of the 11GW Finnish wind pipeline.
Acknowledging that the feed-in tariff support for wind is insufficient to support offshore developments, Finland announced in 2012 that it would issue a tender for a single offshore wind project in 2013 that would benefit from a EUR20 million grant. The tender was duly announced in early July 2013 for a demonstration project with a decision to award likely at the end of 2014.
This could even set the ball rolling for Finnish turbine manufacturing. In October 2013, Finnish start-up Mervento heralded five orders, without giving further details, for a total of 60 turbines for nearshore projects that may use its 3.6MW offshore turbine. The prototype has been in operation at an onshore site since early 2012.
Current offshore capacity: 32MW
NREAP 2020 aim: No target set
Realistic forecast: 900MW