European Offshore Wind Draws Record Investment in 2020

Europe confirmed a record amount of EUR 26.3 billion of investments in 2020 that will finance 7.1 GW of new offshore wind farms to be built in the coming years, WindEurope said.

For comparison, EUR 6.1 billion was invested in four offshore wind projects in 2019. This represents an increase of over 330 per cent year-on-year.

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The UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and France all saw final investment decisions for major new offshore wind farms, despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

”€26 billion in new investments in 2020 is a huge vote of confidence in offshore wind. Investors see that offshore wind is cheap, reliable, and resilient – and that Governments want more of it. And these investments will create jobs and growth. Every new offshore wind turbine generates €15m of economic activity. We expect the 77,000 people working in offshore wind today in Europe to be 200,000 by 2030,” said Giles Dickson, WindEurope CEO.

2.9 GW of new offshore wind capacity was added in Europe in 2020. Europe now has 25 GW of offshore wind capacity. The EU aims to have 300 GW of offshore wind by 2050.

”The new installations show the resilience of the offshore wind industry. Europe’s existing offshore wind farms kept operating. We kept building new wind farms. We kept making new turbines,” Dickson said.

Nine new offshore wind farms came online across five countries. The Netherlands connected 1,493 MW and completed the development of the Borssele Wind Farm Zone. Belgium connected 706 MW, the UK 483 MW, and Germany 219 MW. Portugal completed the installation of a floating offshore wind farm, the WindFloat Atlantic, co-funded by the EU’s NER300 programme.

The North Sea, and Beyond

Europe now has 116 offshore wind farms across 12 countries. 40 per cent of the capacity is in the UK. But new players are entering the scene. France will finally start building its offshore wind farms after final investment decisions on 1 GW which will be built by 2023. They’re also planning four small floating offshore wind farms and this year will tender a large floating offshore wind farm.

Poland passed a historic Offshore Wind Act and aims for 28 GW of offshore wind by 2050. Additionally, they initiated an agreement among all eight Baltic countries to cooperate on offshore wind.

Greece is about to adopt plans for the build-out of offshore wind. And the three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – are all developing projects.

“Offshore wind is no longer just about the North Sea. It’s rapidly becoming a pan-European affair. More and more countries are making commitments on it. Poland, Spain, Greece, Ireland, the three Baltic States all have plans. And the rapid advance of floating offshore wind will help the build-out in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea,” said Dickson.

The Technology

Offshore wind technology continues to evolve. The average size of the turbines installed last year was over 8 MW.

2020 saw big orders for GE’s 13 MW GE Haliade-X turbine. And Siemens Gamesa announced a new 14 MW turbine. New offshore wind farms now deliver capacity factors in excess of 50 per cent, WindEurope said.

”It’s excellent that many more countries have now committed to Contracts-for-Difference (CfDs) as the financing model for offshore wind. It’s cheap for governments: they pay out and get paid back depending on market prices. And it significantly reduces financing costs which means lower bills for energy consumers. The UK, Denmark, Poland, France, Ireland, and Lithuania will now all use CfDs. And Germany dropped its misguided plans to bring in a very different system,” Dickson said.

In 2020, six major Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) from offshore wind were signed. This shows the corporate demand for clean offshore wind energy, WindEurope said. New PPA deals came from different sectors of the industry and included the large corporate off-takers Nestle, Amazon, Deutsche Bahn, Borealis, and Ineos.

”Let’s keep up this momentum! We now need a comprehensive legislative framework for hybrid offshore wind projects, improved maritime spatial planning and streamlined permitting procedures to unleash the full potential of Europe’s offshore wind,” Dickson said.

Photo: EnBW/Rolf Otzipka/Illustration